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Editorial: Troubling signs for a two-state solution

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Theatrical election night rhetoric is nothing new for politicians. Making a last-ditch effort to mobilize voters often results in candidates making impossible promises, grandiose statements about the importance of this particular election (usually, it’s “the most important one in decades”), and dire warnings of what direction the country could take if the vote is lost.

But Israel’s newly re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have taken the rhetoric too far. By all indications, Netanyahu was neck-and-neck with his competitor, Issac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union.

With economic issues playing a larger role in the decisions of many Israeli voters, Netanyahu’s focus on national security didn’t seem particularly effective in drawing centrist voters to his side. So, in a last-minute statement to an Israeli news site, he sought to court those on the right to come cast their vote.

“Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel,” he said to NRG.  He then clarified that a Palestinian state would not be allowed under his watch.

Of course, Netanyahu backed down from this position after his re-election was secured, leading some to wonder if the comments were nothing more than a political stunt (much like his speech to Congress before the election was widely perceived).  He said he wasn’t reversing his support for a two-state solution that he made in a 2009 speech, but he added that the “reality” of the situation has changed.

President Obama criticized the prime minister’s comments in a Huffington Post interview released this past weekend. “Given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations [for a two-state solution] are possible,” he said.

Regardless of their intent, Netanyahu’s comments will certainly have an effect. It would be naïve and irresponsible for a sitting prime minister to make statements on policy for the sheer purpose of getting votes, and that justification doesn’t make sense in the context of Israel’s recent actions.

Israeli housing settlements in areas of the country that are occupied by Palestinians continue to expand, with many settlers becoming entrenched through second and third generations. It’s hard to imagine a two-state solution when this expansion, which is regarded as illegal by most of the international community, continues unimpeded.

The Israeli leader obviously has a duty to advocate for the best interests of his country, and from that perspective, his comments make sense. However, Israel’s well-being should not come at the expense of Palestinian non-citizens living within its borders.

While Netanyahu’s comments may have been made for the sake of getting votes, they have certainly resonated in Israel, enough so to propel him to another term in office. With this kind of sentiment prevailing among the Israeli people, it’s a troubling omen for a two-state solution.


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