Netanyahu: Israel Needs Deal With Palestinians to Avoid Becoming Binational State

The prime minister, who is also serving as Israel's foreign minister, says economic peace no substitute for political peace, but avoids direct mention of the latest overture by the Arab League that softens stance on Israel's border.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that an agreement with the Palestinians must be reached “that will prevent Israel from becoming a binational state, but will provide stability and security.”

Netanyahu delivered these remarks during a meeting with the Foreign Ministry’s senior management. This was the first time the prime minister, who also serves as foreign minister, has met with the ministry’s upper echelons since the new government was established last month.

According to two Foreign Ministry officials who attended the meeting, Netanyahu avoided any mention of the statement issued Tuesday by the Arab League delegation in Washington, which stated that the Palestinians might consider small border adjustments in the form of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said that he was working for the resumption of the peace talks and hoped that the negotiations with the Palestinians would soon be resumed. He said that an initiative is being started that includes economic solutions for the Palestinians together with a political plan.

“Economic peace is important, but it’s no substitute for political peace,” he said.

The prime minister added during the meeting that any peace agreement would require “reliable and durable” security arrangements, since, as he said, “Paper doesn’t promise a thing.” The root of the conflict with the Palestinians “is not Yitzhar but rather Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and Jerusalem,” Netanyahu added, in a reference to the stabbing death Tuesday of a settler from Yitzhar in the northern West Bank, followed by unrest in the area.

Netanyahu added that he was not setting pre-conditions for the resumption of the talks with the Palestinians and was ready to discuss all the issues at the negotiating table. The demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he said, was not a condition for the start of the talks, but rather for their conclusion.

“Until the Palestinians recognize our right to exist as a national state, no matter what the borders, and until they declare that the conflict is over, there will not be peace,” he said. “Unless these things happen, even if we reach an agreement, it will serve to keep the conflict going by other means.”

Masked Palestinians hurling stones at Israeli troops outside the Ofer military prison near Ramallah, in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.