Israel Goes to the Polls

HAR HOMA (Reuters) -
Campaign posters on behalf of the United Torah Judaism party, seen posted in Bnei Brak, prior to the Israeli general elections which will be held Tuesday. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)
Campaign posters on behalf of the United Torah Judaism party, seen posted in Bnei Brak, prior to the Israeli general elections which will be held Tuesday. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in front of controversial new construction in the Jewish community of Har Homa in eastern Yerushalayim, which his government made possible. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in front of controversial new construction in the Jewish community of Har Homa in eastern Yerushalayim, which his government made possible. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Netanyahu: No Palestinian state if re-elected

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a final bid to shore up right-wing support ahead of a knife-edge vote on Tuesday, said he would not permit a Palestinian state to be created under his watch if he is re-elected.

Trailing his center-left opponent Isaac Herzog in opinion polls, the three-term leader has sought to shift the focus away from socioeconomic issues and on to security challenges, saying he alone can defend Israel.

Having previously hinted that he would accept a Palestinian state, Netanyahu reversed course on Monday, citing risks that he linked to the regional spread of Islamist extremism. He said that if he is re-elected, the Palestinians would not get the independent state they seek.

“Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel,” he said.

Asked if that meant a state would not be established if he remained prime minister, he said, “Indeed.” This clarified remarks made by him a few days ago saying that due to regional shifts the two-state solution he had supported in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University had become “irrelevant.”

“Come home,” Netanyahu told disaffected Likud supporters in a speech delivered earlier on Monday at Har Homa.

“The choice is symbolic: the Likud led by me, that will continue to stand firmly for [Israel’s] vital interests, compared with a left-wing government … ready to accept any dictate.”

Netanyahu promoted the establishment of Har Homa in 1997, in defiance of international opposition, after he was first elected prime minister. The community is on a hilltop in eastern Yerushalayim.

“I thought we had to protect the southern gateway to Yerushalayim by building here,” Netanyahu said, with a construction site behind the podium as his backdrop. “There was huge objection, because this neighborhood is in a location which prevents the Palestinian [territorial]contiguity.”