Words 'Palestinian State' Mustn't Be Uttered in Trump-Netanyahu Meet, Bennett Warns

'The two words - Palestinian state - are a historic disaster,' education minister writes on Facebook. Officials in Netanyahu's office say in response that ministers' remarks on the meeting could undermine it.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Bennett during a cabinet meeting, August, 2016.
Emil Salman

Minister Naftali Bennett said on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must not express any agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state in his meeting this week with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Bennett’s statement could well turn a meeting of the security cabinet slated for Sunday, where the ministers will discuss Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump, into a political confrontation.

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"The two words - Palestinian state - are a historic disaster," Bennett, the leader of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, said in a Facebook post. "They must not be said. This is our test."

"If in their statement after the meeting Trump and Netanyahu will mention the commitment to establishing Palestine, or two states in one phrasing or another, we'll all feel it in the coming years,” Bennett continued. "The earth will shake. International pressure, boycotts, reports against Israel, missiles, freezes, tying our soldiers' hands in the fight against terror – all this will continue and grow stronger"

Statements by senior ministers concerning the upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, before hearing what the U.S. president's positions are in private meetings could undermine it, said senior officials in the Prime Minister's Bureau. "A good and warm relationship exists between the two leaders and we must strengthen it," a senior official in Netanyahu's bureau said. Netanyahu, he said, will hear the positions of the ministers, but he will ultimately present Israel's national interests to Trump as he understands it.

Netanyahu has held preparatory sessions ahead of the meeting with Trump, with Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer returning to Jerusalem specifically to take part in the preparations. On Thursday, Netanyahu met with the heads of Israeli’s security agencies, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Mossad head Yossi Cohen, head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevy, head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission Zeev Snir, and other senior security officials. Netanyahu also held a similar meeting with Foreign Ministry Director Yuval Rotem.

Netanyahu discussed at the meetings the issues he expects to raise with Trump, namely Iran’s nuclear program, the civil war in Syria and Palestinian issue. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Bureau noted that Netanyahu plans to make it clear to Trump that Israel will not agree to an Iranian presence in Syria in any future arrangement agreed upon in coming months between Russia and the United States.