Following up on my blog of March 18, explaining how Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been unfairly accused of dropping support for a two-state resolution, Netanyahu has confirmed in two post-election interviews that a two-state solution remains his longer-term goal, despite current obstacles.
Furthermore, AIJAC has located another pre-election interview where Netanyahu explained his current views on implementation of a two-state resolution. This further demonstrates that Netanyahu’s current denials do not constitute “backtracks” (as the New York Times has described them), but rather an attempt to correct the misrepresentation of his views in recent media reports.
In an interview with the Times of Israel‘s David Horowitz on March 13 – three days before the interview with NRG that touched off the international controversy – Netanyahu clearly outlined his view that circumstances were not right for further withdrawals of Israel from territory in the West Bank, while stressing that seeking a resolution with the Palestinians remains his goal.
HOROWITZ: On the Palestinians, you’ve said that you don’t want to see Israel become a binational state, but you’re very wary, in fact you’re opposed at the moment to giving up territory.
NETANYAHU: The goal (of avoiding a binational state) stands, but in the current circumstances in the Middle East, any territory that you vacate will be used for an armed Islamist state against us. That’s exactly what happened in Lebanon. That’s what happened in Gaza. And since the Arab Spring that’s what’s going to happen exactly in the West Bank – in Judea and Samaria – if we vacate territory.
There’s a difference between what people would want in theory and what they’re going to get in practice. I’d focus on what will happen in practice, and everybody in his right mind understands that. So I don’t think we should proceed and vacate territory on a premise that doesn’t hold in the field.
On March 19, in an interview with MSNBC, Netanyahu further clarified his position.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”
“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”
On the same day, this time in an interview with Fox News, Netanyahu repeated the clarification.
“I didn’t retract any of the things I said in my speech six years ago,” he said.
Instead, he blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his reluctance to continue talks. “He’s made a pact with the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, that calls for our destruction,” the prime minister said, referring to the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
He added that “conditions in the Middle East have changed to the point where any territory we withdraw from is immediately taken up by Iranian-backed terrorists or by the [Islamic State].”
Although the Islamic State has no presence in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, it does operate in neighboring Syria. It’s “a dozen miles away from us,” Netanyahu said. “It’s thousands of miles away from you.”
Given the abundant evidence taken from Netanyahu’s statements both before and after the controversy erupted, it’s time for reporters to stop misrepresenting Netanyahu as having said he is against peace with the Palestinians, and specifically against a two-state peace agreement. It’s simply not true.