After promising that a Palestinian state would never be realized under his watch, newly elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to walk back that stance a bit in an interview.
Fighting for his political life last week, Netanyahu promised conservative Israeli voters that if reelected, he didn’t see the vaunted “two-state solution,” where the West Bank would be given to a new state of Palestine as part of a peace treaty, happening on his watch.
The Obama administration slammed his comments, and following his successful showing on Tuesday, the prime minister appeared to backtrack.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, saying he still believes in “a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
“What has changed is the reality,” he said, saying Palestinian leaders work with Hamas and don’t truly desire peace. “Every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace.”
“I don’t want a one-state solution,” Netanyahu said. “I want a sustainable, peaceful, two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change.”
The prime minister also tempered comments he made about Arab-Israeli voters going to the polls on Election Day, after the White House and Western media commentators accused him of fomenting racial animus by noting in comments to his own party voters that Arab turnout was high.
“I am very proud to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens — Arab and Jews alike,” he said. “I am proud that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius in which Arabs have free and fair elections. That’s sacrosanct. That will never change.”