Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that he would not dismantle a single settlement in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians "raise serious doubts about his seriousness and commitment to achieving a two-state solution to the conflict," the progressive American-Jewish lobby J Street said in a statement on Monday.
Speaking at the Davos economic forum late last week, Netanyahu said: I have said in the past, and I repeat today; I do not intend to remove a single settlement and I do not intend to displace a single Israeli.
The prime minister's position "undermines any chance of achieving an agreement establishing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 line with some small land swaps so that major settlement blocs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could become part of Israel," J Street said.
The statement continued that it had been understood for two decades or more that Israeli settlements outside of the borders of Israel would have to be evacuated. Insisting that settlements be allowed to remain in the heart of the future Palestinian state risks condemning the negotiations to failure, it said.
J Street expressed its concern that "such statements and positions risk revealing the Israeli leader as a supporter of the two-state solution in name only – willing to accept the idea of two states in principle but not the tough choices needed to make it a reality." The tough choices that Netanyahu needs to make include relocating settlers living outside the permanent borders of Israel back home to the state of Israel, the organization said.
"We fear that the Prime Minister's remarks seriously undermine his own credibility in the talks," J Street concluded. "The Israeli government should act swiftly to clarify that it is not engaged in these negotiations simply to expose deficiencies on the other side, but is seriously prepared to make the sacrifices and compromises – including settlement evacuation – that will be necessary to secure Israel's future."