Benjamin Netanyahu Brags He’s ‘Proud’ To Have Prevented A Palestinian State
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he was “proud” to have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state, putting him at odds with what for decades has been the United States’ policy priority for the region.
“I’m proud that I prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state because today everybody understands what that Palestinian state could have been, now that we’ve seen the little Palestinian state in Gaza,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.
He then talked about the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which he referred to using the biblical term “Judaea and Samaria.”
“Everyone understands what would have happened if we had capitulated to international pressures and enabled a state like that in Judaea and Samaria, surrounding Jerusalem and on the outskirts of Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also took aim at the Palestinian Authority, the governing authority in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank. He described the Oslo Accords ― the 1993 diplomatic agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority ― as a “mistake,” and said he had “inherited” the agreements.
Reaction to Netanyahu’s remarks was swift.
“So all those promises to world leaders about his commitment to a 2 state solution were a bunch of lies,” Martin Indyk, the United States’ former ambassador to Israel, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “And all those enablers who swore Bibi was serious about peace have some [e]xplaining to do.”
The United States has for decades prioritized the “two-state solution,” which would involve the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, facilitated by various land swaps and other concessions from both sides. U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for a two-state solution in recent months.
“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution,” Biden wrote in The Washington Post on Nov. 18.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) characterized Netanyahu’s comments as a “direct response” to Biden’s calls for a two-state solution.
“[Netanyahu] has continued to weaken the Palestinian Authority — this is the organization that recognized Israel’s right to exist decades and decades ago,” Van Hollen said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Instead of trying to find peace or at least preventing the conditions on the ground from changing with additional settlements to allow a two-state solution, he has shut the door on that effort.”
Netanyahu has long tried to undercut the prospect of a two-state solution. Ahead of winning reelection in 2015, for example, he declared: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu and others in Israel’s hard-right governing coalition have for years supported the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a major obstacle to any peace talks. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live on land that might otherwise be considered part of a potential future Palestinian state. In 2019, Netanyahu claimed to have told then-President Donald Trump that he would not agree to evacuate “a single person” from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Earlier this year, he reportedly said during a meeting with lawmakers that Israel needed to “crush” Palestinian ambition for an independent state.
Netanyahu’s remarks Saturday also came just hours after the Israeli military acknowledged killing three Israeli hostages who’d been held in Gaza. The New York Times noted that Netanyahu “appeared to be trying to change the subject.”
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that claimed the lives of some 1,200 Israelis and allowed Hamas and other Gazan militants to take some 240 hostages, Israel has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians with air strikes and a ground invasion, according to Gaza health authorities. The military action has displaced millions of Palestinians within Gaza.
Following the Oct. 7 attacks, observers have noted Netanyahu and his allies’ occasional expressions of support over the years for Hamas, the governing party in the Gaza Strip. As prime minister, Netanyahu allowed millions of dollars to flow into Gaza, though he claimed Saturday that the money was used for humanitarian purposes and did not benefit Hamas.
In 2015, Bezalel Smotrich, who is now Israel’s far-right finance minister, said: “The Palestinian Authority is a burden, and Hamas is an asset.” Referring to Hamas, he pointed out that “no one will let it put forth a resolution at the U.N. Security Council.”
Netanyahu himself reportedly said in 2019 that “whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support the delivery of funds to Gaza, because maintaining separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”