IMEU: Fact Sheet – The Israeli Government & The Two-State Solution
WHERE THE PARTIES STAND
- Although in 2009 Likud leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said for the first time that he supports the idea of a Palestinian state, with numerous caveats, a majority of Likud members oppose the two-state solution and the party as an institution has never endorsed it.
- Historically, Likud has strongly opposed the creation of a Palestinian state and has played a leading role in the Greater Israel movement, which holds that all of historic Palestine as well as parts of neighboring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, belong to Israel. Although former Likud leaders Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon were at the forefront of Israel's settlement enterprise, in recent years power in the party has shifted increasingly to settlers themselves, including figures such as Zeev Elkin, the Deputy Minister of Defense, and the controversial Moshe Feiglin, who was appointed a deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament by Netanyahu.
- In previous years, Likud’s platform explicitly rejected Palestinian statehood, a clause personally championed by Netanyahu. During the most recent election, Likud ran on a joint parliamentary list with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party. During the campaign, the two parties failed to release a platform, prompting speculation that it was because neither party actually supports even the truncated “state” shorn of any real sovereignty that Netanyahu has proposed. As one senior Likud official told Haaretz newspaper in December 2012, "Likud's platform to date has not recognized the establishment of a Palestinian state,” noting that Yisrael Beiteinu "rejects outright the possibility that a Palestinian state could be established alongside Israel."
- Even in the unlikely event that Netanyahu and Palestinian leaders manage to reach an agreement allowing for the creation of a Palestinian state, it would likely lead to a splitting of the Likud party and the collapse of the government. As Deputy Minister of Defense and Chairman of the Likud Central Committee, Danny Danon, said in June 2013: “there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution… If you will bring it to a vote in the government – nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it – but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.”
- For a number of years Netanyahu has advocated “economic peace” instead of a comprehensive political agreement resulting in the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The idea is rooted in the notion that Palestinians will be willing to indefinitely defer their desire for self-determination and freedom from Israeli domination in exchange for an improvement in their economic situation. Secretary Kerry’s announcement in May 2013 of an unspecified $4 billion economic aid package has raised suspicions amongst some Palestinians that Kerry has adopted Netanyahu’s vision of “economic peace” while failing to stop settlement growth and other violations of Palestinian rights.
Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home)
- Yisrael Beiteinu’s platform rejects the creation of a Palestinian state, declaring: "The demand to establish a Palestinian state and the 'right of return' are designed to camouflage the real intention, which is to erase the State of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state." During the last election campaign, Yisrael Beiteinu’s website featured a video boasting that during its time in the previous government it "thwarted [a] Palestinian declaration of statehood.”
- Although the party’s founder and leader, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has said he would accept a Palestinian state, he has also declared on several occasions that he doesn’t believe peace is possible in the foreseeable future. In September 2010, Lieberman – who is a settler himself – said that peace with the Palestinians was not possible, "not next year and not for the next generation.” In December 2012, deputy leader of the party, Yair Shamir, wrote an op-ed entitled "Why I oppose a Palestinian state,” in which he declared: "We must remove the idea of a Palestinian state in our area from the Israeli agenda immediately if not sooner."
Yesh Atid (There is a Future)
- The unexpected strong showing of the newly-formed Yesh Atid party and its leader, former journalist Yair Lapid, in the last election was initially hailed as a victory for Israeli “moderates” by some observers. However Yesh Atid’s platform, despite calling for a “return to the negotiating table out of good will and the desire to reach a final agreement… to reach two nation-states with recognized international borders that have no demands from each other,” lays out a series of conditions that would make the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state all but impossible. These conditions include:
- The demand that large settlement “blocs” built on occupied Palestinian land will remain under Israeli control.
- The borders of the new Palestinian state will be based on Israel’s “security considerations and the reality that has been created since 1967.”
- Palestinian refugees will be denied their internationally recognized legal right of return to the homes they were expelled from in Israel and instead be “settled within the future Palestinian state.”
- Occupied East Jerusalem will remain under Israeli control and not become the capital of an independent Palestine.
- Israel will reserve the right to violate the sovereignty of any Palestinian state to take military action “to the extent it deems fit.”
HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home)
- The Jewish Home party is composed of numerous settlers and supporters of the settlement movement, and is categorically opposed to Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution.
- Party leader Naftali Bennett, who is a former head of the Yesha Council, the main political body representing settlers (but not a settler himself) has repeated on numerous occasions his staunch, unequivocal opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. Instead, Bennett has proposed that Israel annex the 60% of the occupied West Bank known as Area C, where Israeli settlers live, and where Israel has full control according to the interim Oslo Accords. (See here for a UN map of Area C.) Such a move would eliminate any possibility of creating a Palestinian state in the occupied territories.
Hatnuah (The Movement)
- The newly-formed Hatnuah and leader Tzipi Livni ran in the last election on a platform promising to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, and Livni, who was appointed Justice Minister and designated minister in charge of negotiations by Netanyahu, has repeatedly stated her desire to reach an agreement. However, Hatnuah has only six seats in the Israeli parliament and wields little influence in the government, prompting some critics to accuse Livni of acting as a fig leaf for a hardline right-wing government that is arguably the most pro-settler government in Israel’s history.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ON THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION & PEACE WITH THE PALESTINIANS
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister & leader of the Likud party:
- "I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords… America is a thing you can move very easily… [The way to deal with Palestinians is to] beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it's unbearable." – Netanyahu, while in the opposition, caught on video speaking with Israeli settlers, 2001
- “In any future agreement, if and when we get that far, I see self-rule in which the Palestinians will have the freedom to rule themselves. But to establish a state, with everything that that concept entails, with all the powers I have enumerated, which would endanger Israel’s existence – that no… Not under Arafat or under any other leadership. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever… The Likud has always been firmly opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of our homeland. This opposition has appeared in every Likud platform in election campaigns, including the most recent one… Dear friends, let me say this once again loud and clear: There will not be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan.” – Netanyahu, while in the opposition, addressing the Likud Party Central Committee, 2002
- “The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People. For this to have practical meaning, we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel…The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarized, with solid security measures… No army, no control of air space.” – From Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech, June 2009
- “The vast majority of the 650,000 [settlers] who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of [occupied East] Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv… Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel… Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967… Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel… And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River [in the occupied West Bank].” – From Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress, May 2011
(See here for more on Netanyahu’s views on peace with the Palestinians)
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, Former Foreign Minister & leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party:
- "Anyone who thinks that in the center of this socio-diplomatic ocean, this tsunami which is jarring the Arab world, it is possible to arrive at the magic solution of a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians does not understand… This is impossible. It is not possible to solve the conflict here. The conflict can be managed and it is important to manage the conflict … to negotiate on a long-term interim agreement.” – February 2013
- “[Peace is not possible], not next year and not for the next generation… The only practical solution is a long term interim agreement, on which we can debate.” – September 2010
- "Negotiations on the basis of land for peace are a critical mistake…and will destroy us." – 2008
YAIR LAPID, Minister of Finance & leader of the Yesh Atid party, the second largest party in Israel’s coalition government after the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list:
- “I do not think that the Arabs want peace… What I want is not a new Middle East, but to be rid of [Palestinians] and put a tall fence between us and them… The Palestinians must be brought to an understanding that [occupied East] Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and that there is no point for them in opening negotiations about Jerusalem.” – January 2013
NAFTALI BENNETT, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor & leader of the HaBayit HaYehudi party, the third largest party in Israel’s coalition government after the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list:
- "The idea that a Palestinian state will arise inside the land of Israel has reached a dead end… Never in the history of Israel have so many people dealt with so much energy with something so pointless.” – June 2013
- "The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build [settlements]. It's important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel's leaders' unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel." – June 2013
- "I will do everything in my power, forever, to fight against a Palestinian state being founded in the Land of Israel." – January 2013
- "My positions are very clear: I never hide the fact that I categorically oppose a Palestinian state inside our country." – December 2012
YARIV LEVIN, Chairman of Israel’s Governing Coalition & Co-Chair of the Greater Israel Caucus (Likud):
- “We will act to strengthen our hold on all parts of Eretz Israel, and will safeguard the settlement enterprise out of faith and the knowledge that exercising our rights to this land is our duty but also the best guarantee for Israel’s security.” – June 2013
- “In this way, we will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads that lead to them, and so forth. At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of the occupied West Bank] will be merely marginal appendages… We fully agree and are completely united behind the prime minister’s position, which is to strengthen our foothold in the Land of Israel, to build in [occupied East] Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank]." – January 2013
- “Even when the prime minister spoke about the issue of two states, he didn’t speak about a state in the full sense. He spoke about a long range of conditions that he himself says there is no chance that they will be fulfilled in the near future due to the actions of the other side." – January 2013
MOSHE YA’ALON, Minister of Defense (Likud):
- “From my perspective, Jews can and need to live in all of the Land of Israel for all eternity… There are certain things we need to say – up to here. When you do things you don't believe in, you enter a slippery slope because they put pressure on you, and you keep rolling downwards… I'm not afraid of the Americans.” – Ya’alon discussing US pressure for a settlement freeze, May 2009
DANNY DANON, Deputy Defense Minister & Chairman of the Likud Party Central Committee:
- “Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution… If you will bring it to a vote in the government… you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it… Today we’re not fighting it [Netanyahu’s declared goal of a Palestinian state], but if there will be a move to promote a two-state solution, you will see forces blocking it within the [Likud] party and the government." – June 2013
GIDEON SA'AR, Minister of Internal Affairs (Likud):
- “Two states for two peoples was never part of [the Likud party] election platform… There is currently no Palestinian partner to end the conflict because they wish to prolong it, and at a time when they want to continue the conflict there is no room to establish a state for them.” – December 2012
URI ARIEL, Minister of Housing and Construction (HaBayit HaYehudi):
- "Some didn’t learn [from the Gaza “disengagement”] and are trying to sell us the delusion of two states for two nations… but [I say] two states for two nations is the greatest fairy tale ever told.” – July 2013
YAIR SHAMIR, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Deputy Leader of Yisrael Beiteinu:
- “A Palestinian state would not only fail to bring peace and stability to the region, but would increase the tension and usher in permanent instability… We must remove the idea of a Palestinian state in our area from the Israeli agenda immediately if not sooner.” – December 2012
UZI LANDAU, Minister of Tourism (Yisrael Beiteinu):
- "A Palestinian state is not feasible at all right now… I do not believe in a Palestinian state and I oppose a Palestinian state." – July 2013
- "One thing must be clear: A Palestinian state is not the solution. The state of Israel made a harsh mistake when it created the impression that it is prepared to accept two states for two nations." – May 2013
ZEEV ELKIN, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (Likud):
- “We will try to apply [Israeli] sovereignty over the maximum [of the occupied West Bank] that we can at any given moment… It will take time to change people’s awareness but in the end this will penetrate. And then, what seems today like a fairy tale will eventually become political reality, and the reality on the ground.” – January 2013
- “This is our land, and it’s our right to apply sovereignty over it. Regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] what we did in [occupied East] Jerusalem and the Golan.”- July 2012
TZIPI HOTOVELY, Deputy Minister of Transportation (Likud):
- “We are opposed to a Palestinian state… [Netanyahu's declaration of support for a Palestinian state at Bar-Ilan University was] a tactical speech for the rest of the world." – December 2012
AVI WORTZMAN, Deputy Minister of Education (HaBayit HaYehudi):
- “The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. We oppose a two-state solution.” – February 2013
MOSHE FEIGLIN, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament, appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud):
- "We can give every [Palestinian] family in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] $500,000 to encourage [them] to emigrate … This is the perfect solution for us.” – January 2013
OFIR AKUNIS, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament and close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
- “The Palestinians themselves are not ready for a state.” – June 2013