Jewish Home party leader doubles down on rejection of two-state solution, claims Netanyahu says one thing in English, another in Hebrew

Naftali Bennett (left) and Aryeh Deri (center) with Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (right) ahead of Yosef's daughter's wedding, on June 2, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett (left) and Aryeh Deri (center) with Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (right) ahead of Yosef’s daughter’s wedding, on June 2, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)


Education Minister Naftali Bennett swiped at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, accusing him of talking out of both sides of his mouth about the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Speaking on Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Six Day War, the religious nationalist Jewish Home party leader asserted Israel would never accept the Arab Peace Initiative, and said Netanyahu was telling the public one thing in Hebrew and another in English.

“The time has come to say in a clear voice: the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” he said. “It’s impossible to be in favor of the Land of Israel in Hebrew and establishing a Palestinian state in English.”

Netanyahu has insinuated in recent weeks that he’d be open to negotiating peace with the Palestinians on the basis of an updated version of the 2002 Saudi proposal, which stipulated a return to 1967 lines and Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital. He said last week that the Arab Peace Initiative “includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Bennett’s stinging criticism of Netanyahu mirrored charges often leveled by Israeli politicians about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — that he advocates peace with Israel to the international community, while inciting violence in his native tongue.

Bennett crossed swords with the prime minister recently over coalition demands, and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog on Saturday conditioned Bennett and his party being fired from the government as a prerequisite for him to join the coalition, further fraying ties.

During his remarks at a Jerusalem seminary, Bennett doubled down on his ardent rejection of the foundation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel as long as he’s in the government.

“There are those, in Israel and around the world, joining forces for various Arab initiatives, according to which we’ll divide the Land [of Israel], heaven forfend divide Jerusalem, and return to ’67 lines,” Bennett said. “Because the world presses, there’s need to appease it. To them I say tonight: never.”

Bennett said Saturday that while he vehemently opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, he does back the formation of “a Palestinian autonomy on steroids.”

The education minister told Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” that such an agreement would include imposing full Israeli rule over Area C, which constitutes over 60 percent of the West Bank.

Responding to recent promises made by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to pursue a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Bennett vowed that “as long as we are here [in the coalition], a Palestinian state will not be established… and Jerusalem will not be divided.”

He noted that Palestinian statehood was not part of the government’s policy guidelines as set down in last year’s coalition talks when Netanyahu sought to form his government after the elections.

“We’re in a government that I insisted not have [the establishment of] a Palestinian state in its guidelines,” he said. “If we are talking about a return to the 1967 lines and the division of Jerusalem, I won’t just resign from the government, I’ll topple it.

“We shouldn’t give up an inch of land, we shouldn’t give any land to the Palestinians,” he said emphatically.

Bennett’s withdrawal of his eight-seat party from the coalition, which has a scant majority of 66-54, would effectively topple it.

As reported by The Times of Israel