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UK’s Cameron urges Netanyahu to pursue two-state solution

In phone conversation, British PM calls for pressure on both sides to restart talks, end to settlement construction

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) in Jerusalem, March 12, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) in Jerusalem, March 12, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Britain’s prime minister spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Monday, urging him to pursue a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

David Cameron told Netanyahu that a negotiated solution that created a Palestinian state was the best way to “achieve a lasting peace and to secure Israel’s long-term security and prosperity,” the British Guardian reported.

A Cameron spokesman said the British leader “congratulated [Netanyahu] on winning the recent Israeli elections, and looked forward to working with the new government when it was formed.”

Netanyahu made pre-election comments that were interpreted as a disavowal of his commitment to establishing a Palestinian state, though he walked them back immediately after his victory.

Earlier in the day, Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons that he would lean on Netanyahu to re-start talks with the Palestinians.

“We must put pressure on both sides to make sure talks get going on a two-state solution,” Cameron said to the lawmakers. “I think that’s in the long term interest not just to the Palestinians, but also to the Israelis, and Britain’s policy on that will not change.”

“If there isn’t a two-state solution you end up moving towards a one-state solution which I think will be disastrous for the Jewish people in Israel,” Cameron added Monday. “So I really do believe in the two-state solution and we’re very much opposed to the settlement building that there has been and been very clear about that and will continue to be clear about that. It makes a two-state solution more difficult and that in turn will make Israel less stable rather than more stable.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said during his weekly radio show that he shares “President Obama’s views much more than David Cameron’s. It is extremely worrying – it cannot be more alarming – to have seen Binyamin Netanyahu do something which no leading Israeli politician has ever done – to rule out the prospect of a two-state solution.”

While Clegg said he hoped Netanyahu’s pre-election statement was merely “breathless rhetoric which he is now going to row back from,” he added that if Netanyahu would not support a two-state solution, “the world, including the British parliament, would have no option, inevitably, but to recognize a Palestinian state”.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, attend a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, Tuesday Jan. 27, 2015, in London. The event in London with invited guests and dignitaries marks the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp. (photo credit: AP Photo / Chris Jackson, Pool)
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, attend a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, Tuesday Jan. 27, 2015, in London. The event in London with invited guests and dignitaries marks the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp. (photo credit: AP Photo / Chris Jackson, Pool)

“It cannot be right, given that this is a crucible of so much violence and division across so many communities, that one man – in what I assume was a desperate attempt to curry some votes – should basically tear up the basic tram lines on which a peace deal is likely to occur.”

Also Monday, US State Department Spokesperson Mary Harf stressed that Netanyahu’s sincerity regarding his commitment to a two-state solution would be measured by his future actions, not just his words.

“I think we’ve made clear our position on those comments,” she said during a press briefing. “Given his statements prior to the election, it’s going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing, when it comes to negotiations, that those are possible.”

Establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel is central to the two-state solution that has been at the core of US policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“So we are evaluating what’s taking place,” Harf continued. “I think what we’re looking for now are actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution, not more words. So that’s what we’ll be looking for.”

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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