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Idea of a two-state solution has reached 'dead end,' Bennett says

Economy minister says Israel must stop trying to solve the problem and 'live with it'; likens Palestinian problem to shrapnel injury in the backside; Chief Palestinoian negotiator Erekat: Israel officially declared death of the two-state solution.

By Barak Ravid   Haaretz      17 June 2013

MK Naftali Bennett

Is the alliance with Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party turning sour?              Photo by Emil Salman

The idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the Land of Israel has reached a "dead end," Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday, as the double-talk from the government regarding the conflict with thePalestinians continued.

"The attempt to establish a Palestinian state in our land has ended." Bennett, a member of the government's security cabinet, said at a conference held in Jerusalem by the settler Yesha Council. Bennett made his remarks while the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to renew the peace process were underway.

Bennett emphasized that the establishment of a Palestinian state is a pointless issue and stated that the Palestinians have no right to self-determination or a state of their own between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

"We need to move on from trying to persuade that a Palestinian state isn't appropriate to behaving like this idea is behind us," said Bennett. "Everyone who wanders around Judea and Samaria knows that what they say in the corridors of Annapolis and Oslo is detached from reality. Today there are 400,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria and another 250,000 in eastern Jerusalem."

Likening the Palestinian problem to a shrapnel injury, Bennett told of a friend who suffered from shrapnel "lodged in his backside. They told him they could operate but he would remain handicapped," he said, "So he decided to keep on living with it. There are some situations when striving for perfection can lead to more harm than good."

Bennett also said that Israel should intensify construction in the settlements. "The most important thing in Land of Israel is to build, build, build," he said. "It's important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel's leaders unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.

"It must be said that this land has been ours for 3,000 years," he added, "there was never a Palestinian state here and we were never occupiers. The house is ours and we are residents here, not the occupiers."

A short time after economy minister's speech, Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry from the Yesh Atid party stridently attacked Bennett.

"His declarations are undermining peace efforts and are harming … attempts to build trust between Israel and the Palestinians," said Perry. "The establishment of a Palestinian state is [in] Israel's existential interest. The concept of the two states is the single solution that will prevent the establishment of a bi-national state and the end of Zionism."

The sharp disagreement within the government regarding the Palestinian conflict was clear from the day the coalition was formed. The government's basic guidelines are missing a commitment toward implementing the two-state solution because of the objection of Habayit Hayehudi and most Likud MKs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced several times that he adheres to the principle of two states for two people, but was insistent on making clear that Danon's remarks reflected his own personal position and not that of the government. In the past five years Netanyahu regularly avoided bringing the topic to a vote or even to a discussion at a cabinet meeting.

Several incidents occurred in recent weeks and emphasized to what extent the government is divided on this issue, and just how those who oppose to the peace process and a Palestinian state have the upper hand.

For example, speaking in front of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians, was attacked by Habayit Hayehudi MKs who stated that her position on the matter does not represent the government position.

Several days later, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said in an interview to The Times of Israel that most government ministers opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state and will prevent the move if it appears on the agenda. Following Netanyahu's weak condemnation of Danon's comments, the deputy defense minister repeated them during a Channel 1 interview, and stated that the solution for a Palestinians was to be found in Jordan.

In contrast, Livni called upon Netanyahu to make the government's position on the Palestinian issue clear, and even hinted that she would consider leaving the government if there is no progress on the diplomatic front. Several days later MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) that if there isn’t progress in talks with the Palestinians that Israel is likely to become like apartheid-era South Africa. 

Despite Livni's comments, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat responded to Bennett's remarks on Monday by accusing the Israeli government of officially declaring the death of the two-state solution.

"Within the past few days, several high-ranking Israeli officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, defense and religious affairs have made clear statements regarding their position to actively work against the internationally endorsed two-state solution," Erekatsaid.

"These are not isolated events but a reaffirmation of political platforms and radical beliefs," he said. "Israel has officially declared the death of the two-state solution."