Netanyahu rebuffs Kerry’s warning on binational state
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Netanyahu rebuffs Kerry’s warning on binational state

Prime minister says there can be no solution so long as ‘other side’ doesn’t want peace; blames PA incitement for violence

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, next to a menorah ready for the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, December 6, 2015 (Emil Salman/Haaretz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, next to a menorah ready for the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, December 6, 2015 (Emil Salman/Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday blamed the Palestinian Authority for the stalemate in peace talks and seemed to hit back at comments made Saturday by US secretary of State John Kerry, who warned that a lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could lead to the end of the Jewish state.

“Israel will not be a binational state,” Netanyahu said emphatically at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “But in order for there to be peace, the other side must decide that they also want peace, and unfortunately that is not what we are seeing.”

Netanyahu reiterated previous claims that the Palestinian Authority has been inciting the current wave of violence, citing a visit Saturday by PA chief negotiator Saeb Ereket to the home of the family of a man who had carried out a shooting attack last week and was killed in the course of the attack.

“Not only does he not condemn the attacker; he offers condolences to the family and therefore gives support and encouragement to acts of terror,” he said.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after Kerry told the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, that current trends were leading to a one-state solution, and that Israel would not be able to maintain its Jewish and democratic nature in such a scenario.

“The status quo is simply not sustainable and the fact of the matter is that current trends, including violence, settlement activity, demolitions, are imperiling the viability of a two-state solution,” Kerry warned. “And that trend has to be reversed to prevent this untenable one-state reality from taking hold.”

Kerry, who was criticized this fall for seeming to assert a connection between settlement growth and the recent upswing in terror attacks against Israelis, emphasized Saturday that although “settlements are absolutely no excuse for violence — and we are clear about that,” at the same time “continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions and will only make separating from the Palestinians much more difficult.”

“I can’t stress enough that the terror attacks are devastating the hopes of Israelis who want to believe that peace is possible and the violence must stop,” Kerry said, “but Palestinian hopes are also being dashed by what they see every day. They’re focused on a reality that few others see – that the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority contemplated by the Oslo process has in many ways been reversed.”

Kerry also excoriated Israeli building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli administrative and security control, as increasing Palestinian disillusionment and distancing the prospects for a two-state solution. In pointed remarks, Kerry called out Israeli government ministers who have voiced skepticism toward a two-state solution.

“Nearly all of Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank, is effectively restricted for any Palestinian development, much of it claimed for Israeli state land or settlement councils,” Kerry told attendees.

“We understand there was only one Palestinian building permit granted for all of area C for all of last year and settler outposts are regularly being legalized while demolition of Palestinian structures is increasing. You get it?”

Netanyahu also hit back at comments made Friday by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström suggesting Israel was conducting extrajudicial executions of Palestinian stabbers.

“I denounce the outrageous comments by the Swedish foreign minister,” Netanyahu said. “It seems she expects Israeli citizens to offer their necks to those who want to stab them. It will not happen and we will continue to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.”

Wallström made her remarks in the Swedish parliament after three MPs accused the government of being biased toward the Palestinians and against Israel. In response, she condemned stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, but added that Israel’s response was “disproportionate,” citing as ostensible proof the higher number of Palestinian casualties compared to Israeli ones.

Israel’s response involved “extrajudicial executions,” she was quoted saying, and was “disproportionate, so the number of dead on the other side is greater than the original death toll by several degrees.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry also issued a strongly worded statement in response to the comments.

Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom gives a statement to media on the Paris terrorist attacks, Stockholm, Sweden, November 14, 2015. (AFP/ TT NEWS AGENCY / HENRIK MONTGOMERY)
Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom gives a statement to media on the Paris terrorist attacks, Stockholm, Sweden, November 14, 2015. (AFP/ TT NEWS AGENCY / HENRIK MONTGOMERY)

“It’s an outrageous statement. Delusional, impudent and detached from reality. In Israel, every criminal is brought to court, including terrorists,” the statement read. “Israeli citizens are dealing with terrorism, which gets a boost from such irresponsible and mendacious statements.”

The Foreign Ministry in Stockholm issued a clarification of Wallström’s remarks, arguing that they had been misinterpreted.

“The foreign minister never said that Israel is carrying out extrajudicial executions,” said Wallström’s office. “The foreign minister made a general statement about international law and the right to self-defense, and the importance of proportionality and judiciousness. She was referring to both sides.”

Sweden has been among the countries most critical of Israel’s handling of the conflict with the Palestinians. Following the November 13 attacks in Paris, in which terrorists killed 130 people, Wallstrom asserted that the attacks were rooted in the frustration of Muslims in the Middle East, including that of Palestinians.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil contributed from Washington.

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