Ministers rule out Palestinian state after Biden says Netanyahu could allow it

Smotrich says two-state solution would cause ‘next massacre’; Ben Gvir: ‘I do rule out a Palestinian state, always’

Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (2-R) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (2-R) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers were up in arms on Saturday evening over a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told US President Joe Biden he hadn’t ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state, claiming that such a move would endanger Israel’s security and bolster its enemies.

Netanyahu himself put out a rare Saturday statement after CNN reported that he had walked back previous comments that appeared to reject the idea of creating a Palestinian state.

“In his conversation last night with President Biden, Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated his consistent position for years, which he also expressed at a press conference the day before: after the elimination of Hamas, Israel must remain in full security control of the Gaza Strip to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel — and this conflicts with demands for Palestinian sovereignty,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the Netanyahu denial, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich took to X Saturday evening to assert that establishing a Palestinian state would bring on “the next massacre,” referring to Hamas’s October 7 rampage in southern Israel, which killed some 1,200 people and saw over 240 kidnapped to the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians.

The White House, Smotrich wrote, must “wise up on the concepts that led to [this] national disaster in Israel.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, like Smotrich a senior far-right member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, on Saturday night wrote on X: “I do rule out a Palestinian state, always.”

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar of Netanyahu’s Likud party also chimed in, writing on X on Saturday night: “Our brothers’ and sisters’ blood was not spilled so that the Palestinians would be rewarded and we would risk our future in our land. I say clearly to everyone who is still stuck on October 6: We will never participate in the establishment of a Palestinian state. This is our commitment to the holy martyrs and fallen heroes.”

Energy Minister Eli Cohen said that establishing a Palestinian state would serve as a “reward for terrorism,” which would also “bolster Iran’s axis of evil.” “We will not give in to that!” he said Saturday evening.

The carefully worded PMO statement did not definitively rule out the possibility of a Palestinian state with less than full sovereignty — a possibility that Biden had mentioned in comments after a call with Netanyahu on Friday, during which he spoke of “types” of a two-state solution.

File – US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, October 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The CNN report noted that Biden had found recent conversations among his administration’s officials on a potential demilitarized future Palestinian state to be “intriguing.”

Biden himself said late Friday that the creation of an independent state for Palestinians is not impossible even while Netanyahu is still in office, and that the two leaders had discussed the issue during their phone call earlier Friday.

There has been growing daylight between Jerusalem and Washington over the war in Gaza, which Israel launched in response to the Hamas-led onslaught on October 7.

Netanyahu has rejected Biden’s vision for a postwar Gaza, which would be reunited politically with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority’s rule — after the PA undergoes reforms — as part of a broader diplomatic initiative aimed at an eventual two-state solution and an expanded Abraham Accords.

While Netanyahu has spoken out against establishing a Palestinian state, he has offered few details on his alternative vision for Gaza while blocking the cabinet from holding discussions on the matter, knowing that it risks collapsing his hardline coalition.

Netanyahu reportedly rejected a US proposal, presented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he visited earlier this month, that would have seen Saudi Arabia help with the reconstruction of Gaza along with several other Arab countries in addition to agreeing to normalize ties with Israel, on the condition that Jerusalem agree to take steps to create a pathway to an eventual Palestinian state.

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