Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support-in-principle for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said it did not enjoy the backing of the government.
Bennett, who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home coalition party, called the prime minister’s support of US-backed peace efforts a “serious mistake.”
“Everyone says the [Palestinian] violence stems from a lack of hope, but it’s actually the opposite — violence was widespread even before the formation of the state,” he said in an interview with Channel 2 Saturday. “It stems from a hope to destroy the people of Israel and the Jewish people who have settled here.”
“Only when there is despair, despair at the failure of efforts to expel Jews from here, will there be peace,” he said
“When we talk about two states — it gives them hope. The government isn’t talking about a Palestinian state,” he said, “and therefore what the prime minister says is his own opinion and is not the position of the government of Israel.”
In September, Netanyahu announced he was ready to resume direct peace talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Prior to the March elections, Netanyahu said he did not expect to preside over the establishment of a Palestinian state in his next term as prime minister, but after the elections he said he continued to support a peaceful, sustainable two-state solution.
Netanyahu’s recent refusal to announce new settlement building in the West Bank, or the expansion of existing neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, has infuriating Bennett and other members of his right-wing party. Bennett and other Jewish Home lawmakers have blasted the current purely right-wing-religious government for not providing an “appropriate Zionist response” to the current wave of terror — which, in their view, would mean further cementing Israel’s hold over the Land of Israel by building beyond the Green Line. Netanyahu said on Thursday that his policies on settlement reflect the “common sense” imperative to maintain international support as Israel battles terror.
During the interview, Bennett also rejected criticism, including from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, that he and other Jewish Home ministers bear some responsibility for a rise in the number of incidents of settlers attacking Palestinians and IDF soldiers.