Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Netanyahu rejects Palestinian state ahead of knife-edge election

Gershon Baskin, thinks that Netanyahu is not offering any solution as to what Israel will do with the Palestinian people, nor saying what cancelling the two-state solution would mean in terms of the region or our relations with the world.

Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said he would not allow a Palestinian state to be established if he were re-elected, definitively rejecting the US-sponsored peace process as he lobbied hard for rightwing votes on the eve of a closely fought national election.

On a visit to a Jewish settlement in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, the embattled Israeli prime minister also vowed to build thousands of new housing units in settlements. He said his centre-left opponents, Zionist Union leader Isaac (“Buji”) Herzog and running mate Tzipi Livni, would allow the creation of a “Hamastan” in the city if they formed a government after Tuesday’s election.

“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said in an interview with the NRG news website. “The left has buried its head in the sand time after time and ignores this, but we are realistic and understand.”

Mr Netanyahu’s comments came a day after he joined settler leaders at a rightwing mass demonstration in Tel Aviv, meant to rally voters against a potential poll upset by Mr Herzog and Ms Livni.

Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, facing crumbling support in opinion polls and an apparent drift of some voters to parties farther to its right, said earlier this month that the creation of the Palestinian state — which Mr Netanyahu endorsed in a 2009 speech and pursued as official policy during US-sponsored peace talks in 2013-14 — was “not relevant”. However Mr Netanyahu later distanced himself from the remarks.

Palestinians and moderate Israelis expressed concern at Mr Netanyahu’s more unequivocal rejection of the two-state solution on Monday. However, they also said his remarks were in keeping with the expansion of settlements and other policies his government pursued in parallel with peace talks, which angered the Palestinians and undermined the negotiations.

“Netanyahu has done everything possible to bury the two-state solution, that’s not something new for us,” Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, tweeted in response.

Gershon Baskin, head of IPCRI, an Israeli-Palestinian think-tank promoting the two-state solution, added:

“[Mr Netanyahu] is not offering any solution as to what Israel will do with the Palestinian people, nor saying what cancelling the two-state solution would mean in terms of the region or our relations with the world.”

Tuesday’s election, called by Mr Netanyahu two years ahead of term, is one of Israel’s most closely watched in recent years because of the unexpectedly strong challenge from Mr Herzog, and the possibility of a tack to the centre-left in Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and relations with the outside world.

When the three-term leader called the snap ballot in December, he expressed confidence he would emerge with a stronger mandate for Likud, whose far-right allies include Naftali Bennett’s pro-settler Jewish home. However, in the last two weeks of the campaign, Likud’s poll numbers have ebbed and Israelis have watched as one of their most self-assured and longest-serving leaders sounded defensive, even panicky, blaming foreign governments for funding a campaign to unseat him.

Earlier on Monday, speaking in Har Homa — a Jewish settlement in Palestinian East Jerusalem — Mr Netanyahu said: “If Tzipi and Buji form a government, Hamastan B will be established here,”– a reference to the Gaza Strip, where Israel has fought three wars since 2008 against the militant Islamist group Hamas.

The settlements are deemed illegal under international law, but the status of Jerusalem — where the Palestinians want to form their capital in a future state — is an emotive emotion among many Israelis.

Mr Herzog’s party, after running even with Mr Netanyahu’s for most of the campaign, pulled ahead of it in final polls released on Friday, which showed the Zionist Union leading Likud by four Knesset seats.

However, the polls also show that one in 10 Israeli voters remain undecided, and analysts give Mr Netanyahu better chances than Mr Herzog of assembling a coalition, even if the centre-left gets more seats.

In a move to tip the coalition building process in his favour, on Sunday Mr Netanyahu promised to give the finance ministry to Moshe Kahlon, a breakaway former Likud member whose centrist Kulanu (“All of us”) party is expected to play an important role in backing any future government. Mr Kahlon declined to accept the offer, saying Mr Netanyahu had reneged on past promises to him of jobs.

Yair Lapid, the centrist former finance minister who served in Mr Netanyahu’s outgoing government, said he might back a centre-left government after Tuesday’s vote. Mr Lapid said on Monday that “the Netanyahu era is coming to an end”.

“Netanyahu has missed his moment,” Mr Lapid told Reuters. “You can’t blame him — it’s never easy to know when the moment of your era passes. But for him it has passed.”

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