While J Street welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement at the White House today that he remains committed to two states for two peoples and that he has not given up hope for peace, we remain deeply concerned that his government’s actions continue to erode the basis for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
As a master communicator, Netanyahu knows how to tell an audience what it wants to hear – and on this visit to Washington he will be speaking to diverse audiences.
But actions always speak louder than words. For example, it is deeply dispiriting to learn that Israel moved to green light some 2,200 new housing units within existing settlements in the West Bank and retroactively legalize two previously unauthorized outposts that had been established without government approval.
Such moves make a two-state solution even more difficult to achieve and move Israel in a direction of a “one state nightmare,” in which it would have to choose between its Jewish and its democratic character.
Netanyahu may declare at the White House that he remains committed to two states – but he is also on record at a climactic moment of his reelection campaign last March as saying that there would never be a Palestinian state established while he was Prime Minister.
If we weigh these two contradictory statements in terms of his government’s actions, we can only conclude that Netanyahu has acted more in the spirit of his election pledge than in pursuit of what he said today at the White House.
We also thank President Obama for affirming the continued importance of working towards a two state outcome. However, with the Administration stating last week that it sees no prospect of achieving a peace deal before President Obama leaves office in January 2017, it is more important than ever to avoid actions that close the door permanently to a two-state peace agreement. We endorse the Administration’s efforts to try to build trust between Israel and the Palestinians and we believe that Netanyahu’s statement today could help in that effort – but only if followed up by effective action that demonstrates that the Prime Minister really means what he says.