Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that some West Bank settlements would not come under Israeli sovereignty should there be a final peace deal with the Palestinians.
“Of course some of the settlements won’t be part of the deal, everyone understands that,” he said when he sat down for his first interviews with the Israeli media in over a year.
“I will make sure that [number] is as limited as possible, if we get there,” the prime minister added to Udi Segal of Israel’s Channel 2 News.
During the interview, which airs in its entirety on Saturday night, Netanyahu repeatedly stated that he plans to leave no Israeli without Israeli protection in any potential peace deal, referring indirectly to one of the main issues of contention with the Palestinians, who demand for their state a West Bank that is IDF-free.
In another interview with Channel 10, Netanyahu said he “hasn’t offered” a settlement freeze in a bid to advance negotiations, but didn’t quite rule one out. He recalled that he froze settlement expansion in 2009-2010, and that this did not yield a diplomatic breakthrough.
He said that the US “framework” for continued talks, which is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry, would reflect “the American positions” and that Israel and the Palestinians might well object to some of the terms. “We don’t have to agree to everything they write.”
He also said he intended to ensure Jerusalem remained Israel’s united capital, under full Israeli rule.
The current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, due to end in April, has met with little success thus far at bridging the major gaps between the parties.
The prime minister has just completed a US tour, which began as a bit of a bust, with President Barack Obama presenting a scathing critique of Israeli policy in an interview to Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg. In that interview, which was released while Netanyahu was still in the air on his way to the White House, Obama assailed the prime minister for overseeing “aggressive settlement construction,” indicated that Netanyahu’s positions on the Palestinian conflict were threatening Israel’s well-being, and warned that the US would find it increasingly difficult to defend Israel from the international consequences.
The prime minister appeared to take Obama’s words in stride as he proceeded to hold “very good meetings” with the president and other senior administration officials, before making a fairly well-received address at the annual AIPAC policy conference on Tuesday morning.
He then flew to California, where he held talks and signed a pro-business agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday. The California trip was the first by an Israeli prime minister since 2006.