Opposition MKs Blast Netanyahu Government's 'Doublespeak' on Palestinian Issue

Criticism follows Haaretz report that Bennett told visiting Norway FM that neither he nor Lapid are 'crazy' about the two-state solution.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Opposition Knesset members are taking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task after Haaretz reported that Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett told the visiting Norwegian foreign minister that his political ally Yair Lapid was, like himself, "not too crazy about a two-state solution" to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Meretz party chairwoman Zahava Gal-On called said the remarks by Bennett, who serves as the minister of industry, trade, and labor, could be viewed as "doublespeak" on the part of the Israeli government over the Palestinian issue.

Referring to a speech that the prime minister gave at Bar-Ilan University in 2009 in support of the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the Meretz leader said: "Netanyahu has paid his regular lip service to the Bar-Ilan speech and a two-state solution, lip service because he worked to foil that possibility by wide-scale construction in the settlements." And Bennett, she said, played the role of the boy who actually said that the emperor had no clothes, "expressing strong opposition to a two-state solution and even talking about other ministers who are not crazy about the idea."

"Unfortunately, I believe Bennett more than I do Netanyahu's diplomacy," Gal-On added, "but I think there is an obligation to present the Israeli public with the options from which we must choose—either two states for two peoples or one state that is very far from what we want---which will be either Jewish or democratic or neither of them."

For his part Labor Party Knesset member Nachman Shai said: "[The Netanyahu government] is acting like a chorus with four [separate] voices and it’s no wonder that it's off-key." He called it unacceptable for Netanyahu and Bennett, his economics and trade minister, to be making contradictory statements. "And more than that," Shai added, "it turns out that the finance minister [Lapid] is not in favor of a two-state solution. There is no room for delusion. This government is leading Israel to diplomatic isolation."

During his meeting with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide, Bennett also said that he supported the removal of the West Bank separation barrier.

Netanyahu held his own meeting with Eide before the latter met Bennett, in which he affirmed his commitment to his own “Bar-Ilan speech” of 2009 and the two-state principle, and said he wanted to renew the negotiations with the Palestinians soon.

However, when Eide met with Bennett, he heard messages that were 180 degrees apart from the official Israeli stance on the peace process, as reiterated by Netanyahu. According to a senior Israeli official knowledgeable about the discussion between Bennett and Eide, Bennett spoke out harshly against the idea of a Palestinian state being established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Bennett said in response Saturday that he told the Norwegian minister: “The time has come for new directions in solving the conflict, including considering the option of Jordanian involvement as an anchor of stability in all that regards a solution with the Palestinians.”

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