J Street is deeply concerned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public disavowal of his previous support for a peace agreement with Palestinians based on a two-state solution.
On the final day of campaigning before tomorrow’s Israeli election, Netanyahu unequivocally disavowed his previous support for two states. He also said he had approved construction in the Har Homa neighborhood south of Jerusalem to block Palestinians from expanding the city of Bethlehem – in other words, to grab land for Israel.
Even in the height of a campaign in which support for his Likud Party has been visibly shrinking, these statements are deeply irresponsible and cast serious doubt on Netanyahu’s ability to lead Israel. He has created a paper trail of extreme statements in the past couple of weeks that will be difficult to walk away from later if he wins the election.
These statements represent a clear retreat from his 2009 Bar Ilan speech in which Netanyahu formally committed himself to a two-state solution. As State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week, “Our commitment to achieving an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hasn’t changed. We count on having Israeli and Palestinian partners who are also committed to that.”
We understand that a lot of things may be said in the heat of a campaign that do not translate into policy and that Netanyahu’s attempt to win right-wing votes should not necessarily be taken as official pronouncements. However his statement about the Har Homa neighborhood ring true and place his sincerity as a peace negotiator in serious doubt. It is hard to believe any Palestinian leader would be able to take him seriously as a partner for peace.