During Wednesday`s special plenum debate on the topic of ”two states for two peoples,” which was held at the request of 40 MKs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ”Seven years ago, in the Bar-Ilan speech, I clarified what was needed to end the conflict. I insisted on two principles: The first – mutual recognition. The second – demilitarization. Experience has taught us that only the IDF can secure this demilitarization.”
”We all saw what happened in Gaza. Israel cleared the territory, and we got terror. We all saw what happened in Jerusalem when we did not operate in Beit Jala. Therefore, in all this talk of separation, with or without an agreement, we must realize that there is no separation with security. Israel must continue to be the element which is responsible for security on the ground,” he asserted.
”I want to make it clear for the thousandth times: I did not condition our entrance into negotiations on the acceptance of these principles, but I did make it clear that in order to [reach a final agreement], these principles must be realized.”
”Immediately after the speech, many attacked me and called on me to give up on the principles I set. Of course, I didn’t take that risk, and then I was described as refusing peace,” Netanyahu told the plenum.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu
”Five years ago, with the outbreak of the Arab Spring, I continued along the same line, but I expressed doubts regarding the victory of those who seek progress and peace. I said then that extremist elements will most likely establish despotic regimes. Of course, I was harshly criticized then as well. People explained to me that I must capture the greatness of the moment. The past five years have proven who was right and who was wrong. My duty as prime minister is not to bury my head in the sand, but to look reality in the eyes.”
”A year ago I made it clear that in light of the tremendous changes that are taking place in our region, and all the territory that is cleared is captured by extremists, it doesn’t look like we can implement the two-state solution under the current circumstances. And then you also attacked me.”
”And then, at the beginning of the week, something happened. Members of the Labor Party determined that the two-state solution cannot be implemented,” he added. ”Good morning Buji, I`m glad you`ve woken up. Good morning Labor, welcome to the Middle East. The alarm clock has rung and maybe you`re beginning to understand where we live,” Netanyahu said, using Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog`s nickname. Herzog, as chairman of the Zionist Camp faction, is also the leader of the opposition.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog
”Even though you were the last to understand the reality, as we say, better late than never,” Netanyahu continued. ”But how can your judgement be trusted to deal with the threats around us, when you`re years late in understanding what`s going on here?”
”Terror is not a result of occupation,” he said. ”The terror stems from a culture of death. Its goal is not to free a state, it is to destroy a state.”
”Terror is the result of a totalitarian ideology” and a desire to kill Jews, the prime minister told the plenum.
In response, Herzog argued that the two-state solution ”is the only vision that will preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The alternative is a Jewish-Arab state that will destroy Israel as a Jewish state.”
”I know the far right disagrees with me. The far right thinks annexing the territories with their Palestinian residents is the solution,” Herzog said. ”Well, who stopped you? You set up a purely rightist government. What are you afraid of?”
”We have a different vision, and as hard as you try, you will not be able to kill it. The two state vision isn`t dead. But it won`t happen tomorrow, certainly not as long as you, Mr. Netanyahu and [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen are afraid to make a move. Therefore, I am determining that what we can achieve today is security for the citizens of Israel and separation between us and the Palestinians, with actions rather than talk,” the opposition leader stated.
”The world`s countries want to impose on us a forced agreement of Israel along the 1967 borders. Is this what you want? The messianic people in the radical right want to annex territories and bring millions of Palestinians to the State of Israel. Did anyone say `right of return`? This is precisely the plan of the messianic people.”
”As an alternative to your failed ideas, I suggest that you seriously examine the separation plan I have tabled, which is generating a lot of interest in Israel and the world,” Herzog said.
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon also responded to Netanyahu`s remarks, saying ”The terror wave that has been wreaking havoc here over the past few months is proof of the collapse of the notion that the conflict can be managed. What solution are you proposing? To surround ourselves with fences? To annex 150,000 Palestinians? Where`s the security? When will the moment come when Israelis and Palestinians will stop being murdered?
”We are paying the price for your cowardly policy, which assumed that we can continue life here as usual when millions of Palestinians are under occupation and without rights. And the prime minister gets [support] from the opposition leader, who is also giving up on the two-state solution,” she said.