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Netanyahu says there’ll be no Palestinian state while he's prime minister

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Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.
  1. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to state on Monday that if re-elected, he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state while in office.
  2. The Prime Minister's comments seem to be a direct reversal of his 2009 endorsement of a Palestinian state, made in a speech at Bar-Ilan University. Earlier this month, he appeared to disavow (and then, confusingly, reaffirmed) this position.
  3. Netanyahu's comments come in the middle of a tough re-election fight, and are likely aimed at the right-wing voters he needs in order to be re-elected.

Here's what Netanyahu said

"I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel," Netanyahu said (per the New York Times). "Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand. The left does this time and time again. We are realistic and understand."

According to the Times, Netanyahu left little room for confusion:

Asked if he meant that a Palestinian state would not be established if he were to continue as Israel's prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu replied: "Correct."

Netanyahu and the two-state solution

In theory, according to his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu has supported the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which would include granting Palestinians their own state. However, Netanyahu has long been accused of only paying lip service to the two-state solution, supporting it only in rhetoric while often appearing to take action against it. These statements strongly support that suspicion.

Settlement construction in the West Bank, a major threat to the viability of a Palestinian state, boomed during Netanyahu's tenure. The prime minister repeatedly clashed with the Obama administration over settlement construction, which the US insisted needed to stop or slow to advance the peace process. And Netanyahu had a long history of opposing any land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians before 2009, a history that's consistent with his deeply held ideological beliefs.

That said, these most recent comments are deeply political. According to the most recent polls, Netanyahu's Likud Party has fallen behind its center-left rival, the Zionist Union coalition. He's slamming "the left" in these comments in a bid in an attempt to turn out right-wing Likud voters. It's also a means of wooing Israelis away from the right-wing nationalist Jewish Home party.

It's possible, then, that Netanyahu is renouncing the two-state solution for primarily political reasons. If that's true, then if he wins the US might be able to push him back into negotiations anyway. But it's equally, if not more, likely that this is actually what he thinks — and he's just thought it more advantageous to pretend otherwise until this particular political moment.

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