Netanyahu rejects international pressure for Palestinian state

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 5:04 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will not be pressured into accepting a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, following a Washington Post report that Israel’s main ally the United States was moving plans to establish a Palestinian state.

“Israel categorically rejects international dictates regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians,” said Netanyahu, in a statement published following a call with U.S. President Joe Biden. “Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu said statehood would be a “huge reward” in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, which triggered the latest war in Gaza. He said such an arrangement can only be reached in direct negotiations between the two sides, though no talks have been held since 2014.

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.

Top Israeli ministers strongly rejected such a development on Thursday, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in a West Bank settlement, saying a Palestinian state would pose “an existential threat” to Israel.

The two-state solution, which would create a state for the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel, has been a core Western policy in the region.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said on Friday Netanyahu was invoking negotiations only to have the process fail again. “The Palestinian state is not a gift or a favour from Netanyahu, but a right imposed by international law and legitimate international resolutions,” it said in a statement.

Among the obstacles impeding Palestinian statehood are expanding Israeli settlements in territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, which most countries consider violate international law and which sever Palestinian communities from each other.

In its Gaza offensive, Israel has killed more than 28,700 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health authorities, laid much of the strip to waste and displaced most of its 2.3 million population.

Israel says its goal is to destroy Hamas, whose fighters led the attack on southern Israeli towns in which Israeli authorities say 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage.

(Reporting by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Sharon Singleton)