Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Tuesday that any future peace agreement reached with the Palestinians must include an Israeli military presence in the West Bank and offered insight on security concerns the government may have following a prospective deal.
During an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu said that “In any peace agreement we [Israel] will have to maintain military control of all the territory west of the Jordan River. This is the truth and I will continue saying this truth.”
Netanyahu indicated that an Israeli military withdraw from all areas of the West Bank would likely create a vacuum prone to takeover by extremists, who could pose a threat to Israeli security.
“Why is there no peace?” the premier asked rhetorically. “It is not because of the territories or the settlements. For about 50 years, from 1920 until 1967, we did not hold the territories or have any settlements and they wanted to throw us out of Tel Aviv.”
“When we left Gaza – they wanted to throw us out of Tel Aviv.”
“Also today,” Netanyahu continued, “when I ask the Palestinian Authority [leadership] if we were to agree to all your demands would you relinquish your demand for the right of return of Palestinians to Jaffa… They sit in their chair and refuse to answer the question.”
“The root cause of the conflict was and still is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People under any borders,” said Netanyahu. “The moment we will point to this issue and demand a real change in this way of thinking, only than is there a hope for a real peace. You cannot build a peace on the basis of a lie,” the premier added.
The comments came one day after Netanyahu said Israel does not have a “blank check” from the United States in the diplomatic realm, offering his first public statements on prospects of the two-state solution since US President Donald Trump visited Israel last week.
Netanyahu’s comments came at the weekly Likud faction meeting, against the background of comments from Likud MKs calling for Netanyahu to be more outspoken in opposition to a two-state solution.
The prime minister told the MKs that while Israel is a sovereign country that can make many decisions, and there is a great deal of understanding in Washington for many of Israel’s key positions, the country must proceed in the diplomatic process “wisely and responsibly,” and those claiming that Israel has a “diplomatic blank check” are mistaken.
Netanyahu also said that Trump is determined to reach an agreement. In a speech in Italy before returning home from his first overseas trip as president, Trump said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “assured me that he is willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith – and I believe him.” Likewise, he said, Netanyahu “assured me that he, too, was ready to reach for peace – he is a friend of mine, and he means it.”