Top Israeli ministers reject Palestinian statehood as part of post war plan

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 6:24 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Top ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government rejected Palestinian statehood on Thursday following a Washington Post report that Israel’s main ally the United States was advancing plans to establish a Palestinian state.

“We will in no way agree to this plan, which says Palestinians deserve a prize for the terrible massacre they carried out against us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said.

“A Palestinian state is an existential threat to the State of Israel as was proven on Oct. 7,” he said, adding that he will demand the security cabinet, set to meet later on Thursday, to take a clear position against Palestinian statehood.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the United States was working with some Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – with which Israel has long sought to establish diplomatic ties – on a post war plan for the region that would include a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said any political initiative that did not begin with a Palestinian state as a full member of the United Nations was “doomed to failure”.

Echoing Smotrich in separate remarks were National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, Education Minister Yoav Kisch and lawmaker Matan Kahana, a member of the National Unity Party headed by main Netanyahu challenger Benny Gantz.

“This is a catastrophe, to reward the Palestinians after Oct. 7 by establishing a state,” Chikli of Netanyahu’s Likud party told Army Radio.

The latest Gaza war erupted on Oct. 7 when Hamas led an attack on southern Israeli towns in which Israeli authorities say 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage.

In the more than 130 days since, Israel has killed more than 28,600 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health authorities, in an unrelenting air, land and sea offensive that has laid much of Gaza to waste and displaced most of its 2.3 million population.

Millions of Palestinians live under varying degrees of Israeli rule but only a fraction are citizens. The Palestinian Authority has for years called for an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank – among territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war – where it wants to form a state that includes East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Palestinians and the international community for the most part consider the settlements to be illegal. Israel disputes this, citing historical, biblical and political links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

(Reporting by Henriette Chacar; Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta; Editing by Alison Williams)