Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged the European states set on passing resolutions to recognize a Palestinian state to think twice after listening to rhetoric directed at Israel by the Palestinian Hamas terror group.
Speaking at a conference in Nazareth, the prime minister cautioned that Hamas is seeking to control the West Bank and to form a “second Hamastan” in the region, pointing to fiery speeches from the group’s leaders over the weekend.
“To all the parliamentarians who are rushing to recognize a Palestinian state, let them listen to the Hamas leaders’ statements, just in the past few days, in Gaza,” the prime minister said. “They said that they will control Judea and Samaria, that they will establish there a second Hamastan as the basis of destroying the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s comments came a day before he was set to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on the Palestinian UN bid for statehood, which PA officials said would be submitted Monday.
Netanyahu earlier Sunday said he would seek to thwart the move, which he said would put Islamic extremists outside Tel Aviv.
Speaking Sunday evening, Netanyahu pledged that Israel would not allow Hamas to control the West Bank, and said that he would repeat these remarks in his upcoming meetings in Rome.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon echoed Netanyahu’s comments late Sunday evening, warning that Hamas, with help from movement activists in Gaza and Turkey, was seeking to set up the infrastructure to gain control of the West Bank.
At a rally in Gaza Sunday afternoon to mark the movement’s 27th anniversary, members of Hamas’s armed wing showed off new weapons, including a drone, and threatened that a “moment of explosion” was near.
A number of European countries have passed motions this year calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 lines.
The recent pro-recognition wave, which was spearheaded by Sweden and the UK in October, has been welcomed by the PA, but tested relations between Israel and the EU. Jerusalem has maintained that recognition should only come once bilateral negotiations produce a two-state solution.
Similar initiatives have also been voted on in France, Spain and Ireland. The European Parliament is expected to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state on December 18.
The motions, however, are largely symbolic in nature and intended to put pressure on both sides to renew peace negotiations, which stalled in April after a nine-month, US-brokered effort.
The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognized Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed.
Kerry arrived in Rome on Sunday for a flurry of meetings about a looming showdown at the United Nations amid a European-led drive to push moves towards Palestinian statehood.
US officials told reporters accompanying Kerry on his plane that Washington wanted to learn more about the European position, saying the US administration had not yet decided whether to back or veto any UN resolution on the issue.
Kerry first met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday, before talks on Monday with Netanyahu.
“I believe the Middle East issue is crucial for making sure that we don’t allow the situation to degrade further,” Lavrov said as he met with Kerry in the US ambassador’s residence in Rome.
In a hastily-arranged pre-Christmas diplomatic whirlwind, the top US diplomat will also meet for a few hours Monday in Paris with French, German and British foreign ministers and the new EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
He will then fly to London to meet with the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the secretary general of the Arab League on Tuesday.
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