‘This government is in favor of two states for two peoples’

Stressing need for security arrangements, Yuval Steinitz says he supports ‘painful concessions’ to end conflict

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Minister Yuval Steinitz at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting in Jerusalem on May 20, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Minister Yuval Steinitz at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting in Jerusalem on May 20, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

A senior cabinet minister on Tuesday endorsed the two-state solution as a framework for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rebutting Palestinian claims that the government has no unified position on the issue.

“The government’s position is very clear, and I support it: We do support [a] two states for two peoples solution,” Minister of Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz told The Times of Israel. “We are ready to make painful concessions on two conditions: that there will be peace and security.”

A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, Steinitz acknowledged that key members of the governing coalition are staunchly supposed to a two-state solution – “but this is not that important,” he said. “Because after all it’s the government’s positions, and especially the prime minister’s positions, that matter. And Prime Minister Netanyahu made it very clear — and I think most of us support his position — but he made it very clear that this government is in favor of two states for two people solution, [under] two conditions: that it will be real peace and real security.”

Speaking from Jordan on Monday, where he had attended the World Economic Forum along with a host of world leaders, businessmen and politicians, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had charged that the current Israeli government and its head did not support the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.

“I know you are a democracy, I know you have a [governing] coalition, but usually a coalition has a program,” Erekat said. “I hope to hear from the prime minister that he accepts, to reflect the majority of Israelis, two states on the 1967 borders.”

Genuine peace would entail a “real recognition” of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of all claims and incitement against Israel, Steinitz said, speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Jerusalem. Israel’s security requirements include a “total demilitarization” of a future Palestinian state. Jerusalem would have the right to supervise and control that arrangement in order to be able to prevent arms smuggling or “any other negative security developments in the West Bank,” the minister said.

“We have to make sure that what happened following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will not repeat itself in the West Bank,” he said, referring to rocket fire from the Strip on Israel’s south since the 2005 disengagement.

While efforts to restart peace talks are ongoing under the leadership of US Secretary of State John Kerry, some key members of Netanyahu’s government have in recent weeks vocally reiterated their staunch opposition to the two-state solution. Many ministers and MKs object to the creation of a Palestinian state as matter of principle, including Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (all Likud) as well as the entire Knesset faction of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

On Sunday at the WEF conference in Jordan, President Shimon Peres said that “as far as the Palestinians are concerned we have a functioning beginning and an agreed solution. The solution is the two state solution.” Several right-wing politicians, including Steinitz, attacked Peres for speaking on the government’s behalf about Israel’s position vis-à-vis the conflict, insisting he was not an official spokesman. Peres had met with Netanyahu to coordinate his comments before he left for the Jordan meeting.

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