Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his support for a negotiated solution as the best option and emphasised that a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank is still on the table, this week in his visit to Washington DC.
Speaking to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America on Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples where a demilitarized Palestinian state recognises the Jewish state, and Israel will continue to work for peace in the hope that what is not achievable today might be achievable tomorrow”.
He underlined: “No matter what disagreements there are between Israel and the United States, Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel…I had a very good meeting with President Obama at the White House, and I deeply appreciate his commitment to bolster Israel’s security at the time when the Middle East is becoming more dangerous than ever”.
Netanyahu said: “The reason that we don’t have peace yet with the Palestinians is not because of the settlements or a territorial dispute [over] the territories that were won in our defensive war of 1967. Israelis and Palestinians had a conflict for half a century – almost 50 years – before Israel captured any of those territories or built even a single one of those settlements.”
He added: “We left part of that territory – Gaza. Left it to the very last centimetre or inch. Stripped out the settlements, went to the ’67 boundaries, uprooted all the people who were there, disinterred people from their graves. What did we get? Peace? We got rockets. The truth is that the reason that there isn’t peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognise the Jewish state in any boundary”.
Speaking at a question-and-answer session at the Democrat-affiliated Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu was asked how he would prevent Israel from becoming a bi-national state in the absence of negotiations.
He responded: “Unilateralism…I suppose that’s possible too, but it would have to meet Israeli security criteria and that would also require broader international understanding than exists.” However, he stressed that “Unilateralism works less well than a negotiated solution”.
At the same event, Mr Netanyahu was challenged over comments he made during the March 2015 election about Israeli Arabs voting. He apologised for the comments, saying “I think that this statement, as it was said, was wrong,” and underlined his commitment to equality and development for Israeli Arabs.