Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that he wants the West Bank to remain under Israeli’s military control and does not want the Palestinians living there to become citizens or “subjects” of Israel, revealing an apparent hope to annex the occupied Palestinian territory while leaving its residents stateless. The remarks, made in an interview with David Rubenstein at the Economic Club in Washington DC, signal that Netanyahu has no intention of negotiating in talks that would conclude in Palestinian statehood. Yet the prime minister stopped short of explicitly calling for an official takeover of Palestinian lands in the form of a “one-state solution.”
“I think most Israelis would favor a situation where we could separate from the Palestinians. I don’t want the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and I don’t want them as subjects of Israel,” he explained, “So I want a solution when they have all the powers they need to govern themselves, but none of the powers that would threaten us. What that means is that whatever the solution is, the area west of the Jordan, that includes the Palestinian areas, would be militarily under Israel. The security, the overriding security and responsibility would be Israel’s.”
Netanyahu gave an example of where Israel could benefit from preventing the Palestinians from gaining security control over the West Bank: Ben-Gurion Airport, which “is about 10 seconds away from the West Bank.”
“So obviously, if you say, well, Israel’s airspace stops there, at Ben-Gurion Airport, you know we’re dead. So we need bigger airspace. That’s going to go across the Palestinian area,” he continuing, “The same thing is true – what is above ground, in the air, is underground too, as it turns out because of terror tunnels below the ground too.”
When addressing if Palestinians could expect “full sovereignty” under such an arrangement, Netanyahu said, “I don’t know. But it’s what we need to live. And in this area, the Middle East, full of failed states, states that collapsed, it’s very important that Israel be the power responsible for security because otherwise everyone collapses. The Palestinians collapse.”
“Israel must have the overriding security responsibility for the area west of the Jordan River,” he stated.
Turning to peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said the priority is making deals with regional partners who are coalescing into sides over divides on Syria and Iran.
“I think there’s a new hope on the horizon that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, and it’s not related to the Palestinians – it’s related to the Arab world. Because of the growing danger of Iran, more and more, I would say virtually all the Arab countries, no longer see Israel as their enemy, but as their vital ally in countering the threat of militant Islam,” he said.
“We used to say that if we make peace with the Palestinians we’ll break out and normalize our relations with the Arab world. I think it actually may work more the other way around,” he said, noting the support form key Arab players could “help change the perception of the Palestinians.”