Bennett Blasts Netanyahu: Talk About Ceding Territory in Midst of Terror Wave Is Reward for Terrorists

Education Minister reacts to PM's speech at Center for American Progress, where he said he does not rule out unilateral steps in the West Bank; Likud says PM's comments misunderstood.

Tali Meyer

Education Minister Naftali Bennett blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning over his assertion that unilateral steps on Israel's part in the West Bank are possible under certain circumstances, comments Netanyahu's own Likud party said were misconstrued.

"Ceding territory to Arabs unilaterally is a heavy mistake, always," Bennett said. "Talking about this amid a terror wave conveys a counterproductive message. The enemy must be punished for terror, not rewarded for murdering Jews.

"There's no doubt that a unilateral step must be taken: Applying Israeli sovereignty on Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria," he added.

The Likud said Netanyahu's comments were misunderstood, and said in a statement that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not talk about a unilateral withdrawal [from the West Bank], but rather about the possibility of unilateral moves [] that could strengthen Israel's national and security interests against terror. The interpretation of the prime minister's statements [] is mistaken: Prime Minister Netanyahu will not uproot communities. This is a mistake that will not be repeated," the party said.

Speaking at the Center for American Progress a day after meeting with U.S. President Barak Obama, Netanyahu said on Tuesday that "unilateralism is possible" but it will have to address Israel's security concerns and be supported by a "broader international understanding." He further stated that he believes the issues of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to be unsolvable.

Regarding the peace process, Netanyahu rejected claims he was at fault for the stalemate, placing the onus on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "Why don't we have peace with the Palestinians? Is it me? Why didn't previous prime ministers get peace with the Palestinians?

"I am willing to enter talks with Abbas at any minute and without any preconditions. He refuses," Netanyahu claimed, defending his government's record on settlements and adding that settlement construction was not the stumbling block to peace.