Despite this week’s semi-apology by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett over his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to allow Israelis to live in a future state of Palestine, the spat between the factions gained new life Friday as two old interviews came to light.
Makor Rishon’s Hagai Segal reported on a 1999 interview he did with the prime minister, then in his first term, in which Netanyahu called the idea of Jewish settlers living in a Palestinian state “absurd.”
“Do you know anyone who would support something like that?” Netanyahu asked. “Can you find an Israeli who agree to that? Who would agree to live under Palestinian rule? That’s absurd.”
“This is another way to say, We will wipe out these settlements by giving them over to the Palestinian Authority. It’s absurd.”
This week, by contrast, the prime minister and his Likud allies castigated Bennett for challenging the idea that settlers could live in a Palestinian state.
The interview surfaced shortly after another embarrassing statement came to light, this time showing a Jewish Home MK taking the very position for which the party panned Netanyahu. In televised comments just a few weeks ago, MK Ayelet Shaked said that Israelis should be allowed to stay in a Palestinian state and expressed incredulity that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would not allow this.
If there is to be a peace agreement, Shaked told the i24 television news network in an English-language interview on December 29, 2013, “I don’t see a reason why the settlements [sic] cannot stay and live in a Palestinian state if they want.
“I don’t think the two-state solution will happen,” Shaked added, but she went on to ask, “Why does Abu Mazen [Abbas] want a Palestinian state cleared of Jews? I just don’t get it… There are Arab villages [in Israel] and I think they should have the same rights as myself. I think Jews can live in the Palestinian state.”
Bennett, Shaked’s boss, was in a high-profile fight this week with Netanyahu over this very issue. The Jewish Home chairman reacted publicly to comments by an official to The Times of Israel saying the prime minister was insisting that Jewish West Bank settlers be given the option to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule, following the signing of a peace deal.
Bennett dismissed the idea out of hand, and said that history “won’t forgive” an Israeli leader who relinquished parts of the Land of Israel under a peace deal. The row lead to a short-lived coalition crisis. Bennett on Wednesday partially apologized for his remarks, but did not change his position.
On Thursday, Shaked, confronted with the apparent inconsistency of her position, criticized the statements coming from the Prime Minister’s Office this week as representing “a real offer from someone who agrees to a Palestinian state” — something she opposes — whereas her remarks to i24 were about an “imaginary scenario as an example” to expose “the racism of Abu Mazen, and nothing else.
“I am very much against the dangerous idea of two states, and I don’t think it will happen,” she added.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Jewish Home’s No. 2, defended Shaked, saying her December comments were true “in principle,” but that “in reality” Jews would not be able to live under Palestinian rule. “In principle, those who speak of peace, but do not let us live in our homes, are racist and anti-Semitic. In reality, no one believes that Hamas will allow [the safe presence of Jews in a future Palestine] to happen.”
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.