Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s second longest serving Prime Minister, so you would think that, by now, everyone would understand what he thinks about practically everything.
But you would be wrong. Whatever Netanyahu — or “Bibi,” as Israelis usually call him — is thinking is a subject for constant speculation.
But an article today in The Times Of Israel by its founding editor, David Horowitz, states that at a recent press conference for the Israeli media, Bibi revealed, for the first time, aspects of his assessment of the situation with the Palestinians that he had not spoken of before.
For example, how does he foresee the future resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, and what, if any, concessions is he prepared to agree to?
The prime minister spoke his mind in a way that we have never heard before, and in so doing, answered some fundamental questions. Some observers felt his outlook to be very depressing. Others interpreted his remarks as practical and realistic.
For one thing, he made it explicitly clear that he could never, ever, accept a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. For him, Israel is standing almost alone on the front line against violent Islamic radicalism, while the rest of the (still) free world simply chooses to ignore the extremism.
His views about John Kerry and his team are not really printable; “naive” is a good start point.
Netanyahu has indicated in the past that he doesn’t want Israel to become a bi-national state — meaning he accepts some kind of accommodation with, and separation from, the Palestinians.
But that does not mean full sovereignty for a Palestinian state — ever!
His reason? After looking at what is happening in the region, with the expansion of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, Israel simply cannot afford to give up control over the border between Israel and Jordan, as well as the West Bank and Jordan.
While the current priority is to “take care of Hamas,” the real lesson of the current escalation is that Israel has to ensure that “we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria.” He emphasized, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
What that means is not accepting the demands of Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama, or the international community. It also means a permanent Israeli presence inside, and on the borders of, the West Bank. All of that simply spells out an end to the idea of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Maybe a less than sovereign Palestinian entity — but certainly not a full state.
He still doesn’t say categorically that he’s given up on the two-state solution, only that it’s impossible due to the new realities in the region.
He re-iterated that it didn’t matter what the naive outsiders recommend. He said, “I told John Kerry and General Allen, the Americans’ expert: ‘We live here, I live here, I know what we need to ensure the security of Israel’s people.’”
He was only confirming that he agreed with the remarks of his Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, when he said privately that the U.S.-Kerry-Allen security proposals weren’t worth the paper they were written on.
He reminded the media that he had opposed the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, and he felt that his opinion had been vindicated by the actions of Hamas since then. To withdraw completely from the West Bank would result in the same kind of response. Now we have a problem with Gaza, but the West Bank is 20 times the size of Gaza. Israel, he declared, was not prepared “to create another 20 Gazas” in the West Bank.
In another reference to the growth of Islamic extremism in the region, he said, “It is bringing down countries, many countries. It is knocking on our door, in the north and south.” But while other states were collapsing, Israel was not, due to strong leadership, a powerful army, and its people.”
He vowed, “We will defend ourselves on every front, defensively and offensively.”
He ended up with a message to Israel’s enemies, and well-meaning but simple-minded friends — “Nobody should mess with us.”
The Prime Minister made the above remarks to the Israeli media in Hebrew. Addressing the western press in English, he summed up the events in Gaza in one sentence: “Israel uses rockets to protect its civilians, Hamas uses civilians to protect its rockets.”