Netanyahu Suggests a Sovereign State Might Not Work for Palestinians

In London, Netanyahu warns a future Palestinian state could be taken over by militant Islam and says removing Israeli settlers from the West Bank would constitute ethnic cleansing

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, November 3, 2017.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, November 3, 2017. EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS

LONDON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that before establishing a Palestinian state “it's time we reassessed whether the modern model we have of sovereignty, and unfettered sovereignty, is applicable everywhere in the world.” 

Netanyahu made the remarks at an open session at the Chatham House think-tank in London. The Israeli prime minister is visiting the U.K. in honor of the Balfour Declaration centenary. When asked about the viability of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu warned that “in the Middle East we’ve seen too many failed states. When Western power leaves and when Israeli power leaves, as we saw in Gaza, it is always immediately replaced by militant Islam.” 

He emphasized that for Israel "the overriding concern is always security,” and therefore other models of sovereignty should be studied. During his 80-minute lecture at the think-tank, Netanyahu tried to challenge the established precepts of the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. “Land for peace is good. Land for terror isn't,” he said, challenging the Palestinian demand that Israeli settlers in the West Bank not be allowed to remain in a future Palestinian state. “From the Palestinian point of view, why do I have to take out Jews for peace? Do I have to take Arab citizens out of Israel for peace?” Netanyahu described the demand as “ethnic cleansing.”

Netanyahu nevertheless said he hoped a U.S. peace initiative would work and praised President Donald Trump for taking a fresh approach to bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. Asked if he felt now was the moment for peace in the region, noting Trump's involvement in peace efforts, he said: "Hope so."

"What's being discussed now is an American initiative. Obviously we make our interests and our concerns known to Mr. Trump. He's coming with a sort of refreshing 'can-do' thing... they're trying to think out of the box," Netanyahu said.

"The reason I draw hope from the moment is because of the larger shift in Arab-Israeli relations with the countries of the region. I cannot emphasize how dramatic that is," he said.

The bulk of Netanyahu’s remarks revolved around Iran. "Medievalists have come through the cracks of these ruined regimes – extreme Islam – Shi'as led by Iran and extreme Sunnis led in the past by Al-Qaida and now Daesh," Netanyahu said in a conversation with Chatham House director Robin Niblett, referring to ISIS. "The bad news is that as the barbarians fight among themselves, the more potent force that has emerged is Iran, which is devouring one nation after another – usually by proxies. Lebanon, Yemen and now they're trying in Syria.”

Netanyahu described Iran's leadership as "the gang, the cult, the politburo, the council of wise men that runs Iran" and said it has a "goal of global domination and the domination of Islam." He criticized the nuclear agreement signed with Iran two years ago, but instead of calling for its cancellation, Netanyahu said that it can be fixed in three ways, including "massive sanctions" on the Iranian missile program, bolstering inspection and eliminating the sunset clause, "on which we can change the lines for (Iran’s nuclear) breakout. That doesn't require changing the agreement and can be done with some of the signatories.”

Reuters contributed to the report