The next time anyone tries to blame the Palestinians for refusing to return to the table, remember that Israel’s prime minister repeatedly states his unwillingness to end the occupation.
He’s said it countless times before in myriad ways. But he usually only says it in Hebrew. This week, however, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in English, and on camera, that under his leadership Israel will never end the occupation of Palestine.
Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington earlier this week, Netanyahu dodged a question about whether he supports a one- or two-state solution, and outlined a vision that sounds a lot like an entrenched and enhanced version of the occupation as it exists today.
“I don’t want the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and I don’t want them as subjects of Israel. So I want a solution where they have all the powers they need to govern themselves but none of the powers that would threaten us,” the prime minister said.
“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,” he continued. “The security, the overriding security responsibility would be Israel’s.”
The mainstay of Israel’s military occupation, of course, is Israeli military control over the Palestinian territories and Palestinians themselves. Through the Oslo Accords, Israel has been able to minimize and outsource much of its control over Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority, but insists on retaining what Netanyahu calls “overriding security responsibility.”
Even after a peace deal, or in Netanyahu’s words, “a solution,” the occupation of Palestine will continue. And without sovereign control of its territory, there would definitely be no independent Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has been saying this for years. In 2014, less than three months after the collapse of the Kerry peace talks, Netanyahu stated that “that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
A year after that, in 2015, Netanyahu declared that a Palestinian state will never be established on his watch. Fast-forward to 2017 and the prime minister started promising that he will never remove any Israeli settlements from the West Bank, without which even basic Palestinian autonomy is inconceivable. And more than a decade ago Netanyahu was filmed bragging about how he set out to sabotage the Oslo Accords.
None of that is to suggest that Netanyahu alone is responsible for the lack of peace or Palestinian statehood. His views are not all that different than the vast majority of Israeli politicians who hope to replace him one day. But next time anyone tries to lay blame on the Palestinians for “refusing to return to the table,” remember how Benjamin Netanyahu keeps openly stating his unwillingness to ever end the occupation.