Over the weekend Israel’s right-wing politicians and key advisers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet laid the groundwork to formally abandon a two-state solution with the Palestinians and crystallize a policy towards annexation. The proposals were unveiled at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s premier security forum where major government changes are often debuted—it was at this venue where the 2005 disengagement from Gaza was announced.
“I negate the idea of a two state-solution,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said. As Israel’s chief foreign relations official, Hotovely is responsible for representing Israel if negotiations with the Palestinians were to resume. She spoke at length claiming Palestinian actions over recent months to boycott Israel at FIFA, and their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state show the Palestinians are in no mood for a peace deal. They “want to put Israel alongside al-Qaeda,” she said.
“More than the Palestinians want a solution they want to actually put the Israelis on a bench to be accused and caught. In other words, their ethos is a negative ethos,” she said. Hotovely then read a roster of new principles that the Palestinians, Israelis, and the broader Middle East would need to meet in order for Israel to be receptive to a future Palestinian state, inserting redlines never discussed in previous peace talks: (1) Israelis must act as “a just society that is loyal to the principles of a Jewish state”; (2) The Palestinians must, “instead of suicide and education towards terror they have to recognize Israel as a jewish state and express their will to live alongside it; (3) Arab countries hosting Palestinian refugee camps must dismantle the infrastructure and absorb the displaced.
Hotovely closed by stating her opinion was that the Palestinians and Arab countries would not meet these tenets, therefore the issue of two-states was closed with the Palestinians to blame.
In response, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Xavier Abu Eid told Mondoweiss, “she [Hotovely] is basically saying that the solution for our conflict is to have the Palestinians disappear.” Abu Eid indicated that the PLO has not been contacted by the new Netanyahu government with any offer to return to the negotiating table. Hotovely’s speech was the first statement he had heard from Israel’s foreign ministry on their plans. He added that if the PLO were to make pronouncements on creating one-state based off of religious literature, which Hotovely did last week when discussing Greater Israel, that the Palestinians in turn “would be linked to Da’esh [ISIS].”
“Racist Israeli top diplomats would not be able to make the statement that she is making if she knew that there would be consequences in the international arena,” Abu Eid said.
Also speaking at the conference, Education Minister Nafatli Bennett lauded Israeli annexation of occupied territory and focused on the Syrian area taken by Israel during 1967 war, the Golan Heights. “Enough of the kind of double standard. No one talks about Western Sahara or Cyprus they way they relate to the Golan Heights and all of them were areas that were occupied,” Bennett said. “Yes there is a controversy over Judea and Samaria, what the world calls the West Bank. There, I understand that we will have to agree to disagree,” he added.
Bennett, like Hotovley dismissed Palestinian statehood in the context of a two-state agreement, stressing, ”The world is promoting all sort of imaginary plans, their implementation will only bring more terror and missiles barraged on Israel.”
The officials’ speeches come at the same time that other Israeli leaders are speaking harshly against the Palestinian call for boycott sanctions and divestment (BDS) against Israel. Weeks ago Palestinian officials sought the ouster of Israel from FIFA, and official Israeli responses to BDS have continued, almost daily to date, often tied into a rebuff of Palestinian statehood.
Speaking in New York at the Jerusalem Post summit Yair Lapid conceded Sunday that the Israeli government is not interested in returning to negotiations. “Commitment to the two-state solution at this time is half-hearted, and doesn’t include the willingness to pay the political price that is needed to reach a deal , but that is a matter of political circumstances and not set conditions,” he said.
Yet Lapid remained personally hopeful for a broader regional approach to Middle East peace, which he claimed would reduce BDS pressure. For Lapid, as with many officials from the center political camps, the two-state solution is a demographics game, where an agreement must be reached in order to prevent a scenario where a one state would have a Jewish minority living with a Palestinian majority. “The state of Israel cannot absorb 3.5 million Palestinians,” he said, for which Lapid received applause.
Back in Herzliya, Lapid’s colleague the former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expanded upon this view. She made an appeal for Israeli officials to change their mind, and support a two-state solution. “There are those that believe in the Greater Israel,” she said, “I believe that the price of that vision will lead to a situation wherein there will be one state between the sea and Jordan and it will not be a Jewish state, but one with an Arab majority. It will be an Arab state.”
Livni then asked her audience of decision-makers to abandon their claim of Jewish “rights on the land” in the West Bank. She argued letting go of the territories was essential to maintaining a “jewish and democratic state here, and it doesn’t have to be the whole one.” Livni stressed Israel should take measures to adopt a two-state platform with urgency to both neutralize boycott calls in the international area, and bridge relations with “moderate” Arab neighbors—a reference to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative where the Arab League offered to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for ending the occupation of the Palestinian territory.
Yet Livni was alone at Herzilya. The prevailing thought espoused on the stage by Netanyahu’s cabinet of advisers (which Livni is not a member) on boycotts, occupation and annexation was summed up by Bennett who called for 50,000 Jews to settle in the Golan. To Bennett building settlements to further the cause of annexation, “This is our answer to boycott,” he said.
To view all of the speeches made at the 15th IDC Herzilya Conference, click here