NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the United States accepts that even if a two-state solution is achieved to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel will retain overall security control of the West Bank.
Briefing Israeli reporters after a meeting with Donald Trump at which the US president for the first time explicitly endorsed a two-state solution as his preferred option, Netanyahu said that under any peace accord, Israel would retain security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
“I am sure that any US peace plan will reflect that principle to a great extent, maybe even entirely,” Netanyahu said.
“Some things are not to acceptable to us,” he added. “Make no mistake: Israel will not give up on security control west of the Jordan as long as I am prime minister. I think the Americans accept that principle.”
Asked whether he hoped a Palestinian state would to come into being during his time in office, Netanyahu smiled and said, “I suggest that you wait patiently.”
“The question is, what is a state?” he asked. “It’s a real question. That’s also what I said in the meeting: Will it be Costa Rica or Iran? Who will have security control?”
Netanyahu said that while he did not know when the US would publish its peace plan — Trump said in their joint remarks to reporters that it would likely be unveiled within four months — he was sure it would take Israel’s security concerns into consideration.
During the public part of the meeting, which took place at the United Nations headquarters, Trump for the first time since taking office publicly said that he would like a two-state solution and that he thinks it would be the best way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He also said he aimed to broker a deal during his first term in office.
Netanyahu said that he was not surprised by Trump’s endorsement of a two-state solution. “We discuss the issue constantly,” he said. Since Trump became president in January 2017 and said he was open to a one-state or two-state solution, Netanyahu has avoided explicitly backing the idea of Palestinian statehood.
In his briefing with Israeli reporters, Netanyahu repeated his position that it was important to define what the term “state” means before making policy pronouncements.
“I talked about the essence, and not the terminology,” he said. “I am ready for the Palestinians to have the power to govern themselves without having the powers to threaten us.”
In response to Trump’s unexpected endorsement of a two-state solution, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) stressed that Trump was “a true friend of Israel” but was wrong to back Palestinian statehood.
“However,” Bennett wrote on his Twitter account, “it must be emphasized that as long as the Jewish Home party is part of Israel’s government, there will not be a Palestinian state, which would be a disaster for Israel.”
Asked by reporters about Bennett’s tweet, Netanyahu replied: “I promise that there won’t be a Palestinian state that will be a disaster for the State of Israel.”