After hearing Binyamin Netanyahu declare his support for a Palestinian state, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) had a word of advice for the prime minister. “He shouldn’t get insulted next time someone says he is not on the right,” Smotrich said in a radio interview. “He’s made his position perfectly clear.”
In an interview with “60 Minutes” Sunday, Netanyahu said he looked forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump on resolving the Middle East crisis. While no president has been able to broker a successful, long-lasting deal between Israel and the Palestinians, Netanyahu expressed hope that Trump could — and he would find Netanyahu a willing partner.
“Two states for two peoples. And that’s where I’m focused,” Netanyahu said in the interview. “Yeah, I’d like to have President Trump, when he gets into the White House, help me work on that. And I’d like to see if the Arab states can help me achieve that. It’s a new reality. A new possibility,” the prime minister said.
“I’ve lifted checkpoints quite a bit and we’re trying to create bridges and thoroughfares and so on so we can have freer movement. Palestinians know — they look at Aleppo in Syria, and they look at Yemen, and they look at Libya, and they look at other places, and they know that our intention is coexistence,” Netanyahu said.
That’s fine, Smotrich said Monday — but Netanyahu should at least be intellectually honest about his stance. “Netanyahu gets insulted when I say he is not on the right after he makes statements like this,” the MK said, referring to a recent interview in Haaretz in which Netanyahu slammed Smotrich for saying exactly that. “But anyone who has such a strong desire to set up an Arab state in the Land of Israel cannot be considered right wing.
“This is what missing a once-in-a-hundred year opportunity looks like,” Smotrich said in the interview. He was referring to statements he made in November, after the election of Trump. Smotrich said at the time that the election “was something new in the international scene, and one thing must be clear – it is time to shelve the two-state solution. As the administration has now changed, so must the terrible building freeze that the Obama administration has forced on Israel change as well.” Netanyahu, Smotrich said Monday, was apparently willing to forgo that opportunity in the interest of the “same old” politics that don’t work.
It should be noted that Netanyahu has changed his stance on a Palestinian state numerous times. Seven years ago, when U.S. President Barack Obama had just taken office, Netanyahu made his famous Bar Ilan University speech in which he laid out a vision for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Area A of Yehudah and Shomron. In 2015, on the eve of the elections, with Jewish Home closing in on his lead in the polls, Netanyahu declared that he was opposed to such a state.