Comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu that he would not dismantle a single settlement in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians raise significant doubts about his seriousness and commitment to achieving a two-state solution to the conflict.
Netanyahu made the comments last Friday at the World Economic Forum, saying, “I have said in the past, and I repeat today: I do not intend to remove a single settlement and I do not intend to displace a single Israeli.”
This position undermines any chance of achieving an agreement establishing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines. It has been well understood for over two decades that settlements outside of the borders of Israel would have to be evacuated. Insisting that settlements be allowed to remain in the heart of the future Palestinian state risks condemning the negotiations to failure.
When right-wing opponents of a two-state solution, including members of his own party, attacked Netanyahu for even suggesting that Palestinian sovereignty could be established over part of the West Bank, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office made matters worse, saying that the critics were getting in the way of the prime minister’s effort “to reveal the true face of the Palestinian Authority” as an unwilling peace partner.
J Street fears that such statements and positions risk revealing the Israeli leader as a supporter of the two-state solution in name only – willing to accept the idea of two states in principle but not the tough choices needed to make it a reality. Those tough choices include relocating settlers living outside the permanent borders of Israel back home to the state of Israel.
We fear that the prime minister’s remarks seriously undermine his own credibility in the talks. The Israeli government should act swiftly to clarify that it is not engaged in these negotiations simply to expose deficiencies on the other side, but is seriously prepared to make the sacrifices and compromises – including settlement evacuation – that will be necessary to secure Israel’s future.