Two days after his victory at the polls, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already walked back his disavowal of a two-state solution.
“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” Netanyahu said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I haven’t changed my policy.”
But just days before, in an attempt to drive right wing voters to the polls, Netanyahu said in an interview that there would not be a Palestinian state under his watch if he was reelected.
Asked by Israeli news site, NRG, on Monday if Netanyahu thought that a Palestinian nation would never be formed while he’s prime minister, Netanyahu responded, “Indeed.”
Netanyahu’s comments Monday were seen a key part to his Tuesday election victory but also “raised significant concerns” with senior administration officials back in Washington, who saw ruling out a two-state solution as a significant set back for U.S.-Israel relations.
But on Thursday, Netanyahu said his comments were a reflection of changing conditions on the Palestinian side, pointing to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s pact to form a unity government with Hamas, which Israel, the U.S. and most European countries consider a terrorist organization. He put the onus on Palestinian leaders to create conditions favorable for peace.
“I’m talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable,” Netanyahu said Thursday. “If you want to get peace you’ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel.”
Netanyahu said he supports the same conditions for negotiating a sustainable peace: a demilitarized Palestinian state whose leadership recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu also walked back another controversial campaign remark, when he urged his supporters to go out to counteract the effect of Arab voters who he said were rushing to the polls “in droves.”
“I wasn’t trying to suppress the vote…I was calling on our voters to come out,” Netanyahu said. “I’m very proud to be the Prime Minister’ of all Israel’s citizens.”
Netanyahu went on to point out that he drew support from “quite a few Arab voters” and pointed out the “free and fair elections” in Israel that aren’t commonplace in the Middle East.
Netanyahu also deflected criticism from the Obama administration, which has said it was “deeply concerned” about Netanyahu’s comments. And senior administration officials suggested Netanyahu’s comments on a Palestinian state might prompt the U.S. to reconsider its defense of Israel at the United Nations.
The Israeli Prime Minister pointed to the “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel and downplayed strains in his relationship with President Barack Obama, who did not call Netanyahu to congratulate him on his visit, instead dispatching his secretary of state.
“America has no greater ally than Israel and Isreal has no greater ally than the United States,” Netanyahu said. “We’ll work together. We have to.”