Netanyahu Promises to Extinguish Palestinian Dream of Statehood

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region


Days before parliamentary elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has declared that under his government the Israeli government would not relinquish control of the Jordan Valley and other parts of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The politically expedient and brazen statement by Mr. Netanyahu has alarmed many in the region who fear that the window for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be closing, thus increasing the odds of violence and further instability. For the Palestinian leadership the latest statement only confirms what they have long suspected, i.e. that the Israeli government is not interested in a genuine and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question. Others have expressed dismay at the lack of reaction on the part of the international community. In Israel, meanwhile, the statement has elicited excitement on the part of the right-wing electorate, while almost ignored by the rest.

Palestinians have, as expected, reacted with anger to Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign promise with Daily News Egypt’s Mohammed El-Said noting that the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas has threatened “that all agreements signed with the Israeli side and the resulting obligations will be terminated if the Israeli side carries out the imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967…. Meanwhile, the League of Arab countries denounced Netanyahu’s plan saying that such moves would undermine any chances for progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Following PA President’s denunciation of the Israeli prime minister’s plans, the Palestinian main news site Wafa published a statement by the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in support of “the position of President Mahmoud Abbas that the leadership will end all agreements signed with the Israeli side and their resulting obligations and that ‘we will not remain the only party committed to these agreements’. The committee stressed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements on the annexation of areas of the occupied Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area, reflect the strategy of the Israeli government. It held Netanyahu and any Israeli government that partook in this decision fully responsible for ending the peace path, stressing that the Palestinian leadership will continue taking practical measures for the transformation into a statehood and the gradual disengagement from all agreements signed with the occupation authorities.”

Aside from a carefully worded statement by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who reemphasized the importance of the two state solution and of finding a lasting and equitable solution on the basis of international law, few other international actors have spoken out against Mr. Netanyahu’s rhetoric, a fact recently highlighted in a Jordan Times editorial calling on the: “the international community, including the US and the EU, to speak up against the latest batch of Netanyahu’s declarations and warn against their dire consequences in a bid to awaken the Israelis about where Netanyahu is taking them. While there is no hope that President Donald Trump would join the international community in its bid to sway the Israeli voters in the direction of peace, other nations, including major powers such as Russia, China and the EU member states, can succeed in this endeavor.”

The National’s editorial warns that apathy may lead endanger ‘the very idea of Palestine’, lamenting the fact that, unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu’s “cynical attempt to woo right-wing Israeli voters is not unprecedented. In April, shortly before the previous election in which he failed to win sufficient votes to form a government, he suggested he would annex large parts of the occupied West Bank…. It is also clear that, with Mr. Trump facing an election next year, Mr. Netanyahu, in referring to his annexation plan as a historic chance ‘that we may not have again’, senses that a window of opportunity might be closing on his nefarious ambitions…. If the world fails to resist Mr. Netanyahu’s abuse of international law, it will be complicit not only in the shattering of hopes for peace in the region, but also in the death of the very idea of Palestine.”

Another important regional daily—The Khaleej Times— worries that the Israeli Prime Minister’s drive for self-preservation may have dealt a ‘blow’ to the peace prospects in the Middle East, further adding that “An election campaign that promotes further annexation of Palestinian land is against all moral principles of international diplomacy. It is vile, criminal and illegal. But if you are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ethics and morals can be given the short shrift as he makes a final pitch to retain power…. Netanyahu’s proposal could land a fatal blow to a two-state solution as the Valley and the Dead Sea region is crucial to a future Palestine state…. If US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is piloting the proposed peace plan, thinks economic incentives thrown at the Palestinians could clinch a deal, he is mistaken. Peace will remain elusive, a chimera in the Middle East.”

Writing for Arab News, Daoud Kuttab doesn’t mince any words in his description of Israeli policies, pointing out the instrumentalization of the Palestinian people: “One of the most dehumanizing aspects of the current season of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the way the Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu administrations are turning Palestinians into political tools, even if it means supporting a war crime such as apartheid….This shameless electioneering pledge would not have been possible without the unmistaken, blind support Washington has been giving to Netanyahu and his right-wing government…. The latest pledge to annex the Jordan Valley the day after a government is formed clearly destroys whatever is left of the concept of the two-state solution, formalizes the de facto apartheid policy in the Occupied Territories and, with the support for radical religious elements, is further escalating this political conflict into a religious one.”

It is perhaps telling that Ben-Dror Yemini’s criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu, as reflected in a recent op-ed for Yedioth Ahronoth, has little to do with the aspirations and plight of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, but rather with the optics of the PM’s statements: “There is indeed a certain consensus, from the Democratic Union with its Meretz leadership all the way to the far-right of the political spectrum, that the Jordan Valley remains in Israel’s control under any peace agreement with the Palestinians. An election statement like the one Netanyahu made on Tuesday only serves to hurt this consensus, as it turns the Jordan Valley into a political issue and ignites old disputes…. ultimately, this move is only detrimental to Israel. If before Tuesday there was no real international front to dispute Israel’s hold of the Jordan Valley, now there certainly will be.”

Finally, as the prospects of a two-state solution continue to dim, others interested in the success of the peace process believe that the answer lies in what former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin expressed in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post where he made the case for a confederal rather than federal system of governance: “The two-state solution is the one the world has adopted for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is the solution promoted by the Arab Peace Initiative, as it has the plurality support among Israelis and Palestinians alike. But there is a majority on both sides which doesn’t believe this solution is still realistic…. In my view, a confederated structure may enable the two-state solution by referring to the above-mentioned issues and to some others… A confederation, rather than a federation, consists of separate independent and sovereign states which prefer to exist in a joint framework and which determine together the scope of their cooperation.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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