Israeli Prime Minister appears to have walked back his earlier repudiation of the American-backed two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports (portions will air on NBC Nightly News on Thursday).
Just on Monday, Netanyahu had announced that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch. NRG, an Israeli news site, asked if Netanyahu would oppose the creation of Palestinian state under his watch, and he said "indeed."
This statement was widely seen as a rejection of the two-state solution, which would require the establishment of a Palestinian state, meant to turn out right-wing votes in this week's election. The move caused an international uproar, particularly in the US. Now that the election is over and Netanyahu has gotten his votes, he appears to have already reversed himself in this interview, saying that he had never actually abandoned his support for a Palestinian state.
Here's they key exchange between Mitchell and Netanyahu:
MITCHELL: Critics and analysts here and around the world are saying at what cost. Your hard turn right on the Palestinian issue, what you said about the Arab voters coming out in droves, they say are costing you, costing you support around the world.
NETANYAHU: Well, neither one is— the premises in your question are wrong. I haven't changed my policy. I never changed my speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas that calls for destruction of Jewish state. And every territory that is vacated in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces.
Netanyahu is saying, in other words, that he wasn't abandoning in-principle support for a Palestinian state — he just doesn't think the Palestinians are interested and capable of setting up a peaceful one anytime soon. It remains to be seen as to whether the White House will buy that.
Here's a longer transcript of their discussion of the Palestinian state issue:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Prime Minister, congratulations on your victory.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Thank you.
MITCHELL: But -- there's always a but -- critics and analysts here and around the world are saying at what cost. Your hard turn right on the Palestinian issue, what you said about the Arab voters coming out in droves, they say are costing you, costing you support around the world.
NETANYAHU: Well, neither one is -- the premises in your question are wrong. I haven't changed my policy. I never changed my speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas that calls for destruction of Jewish state. And every territory that is vacated in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces.
MITCHELL: But they are saying -
NETANYAHU: We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained real peace. And I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change.
MITCHELL: But you were reelected on a mandate, certainly Israeli voters, your supporters, believe you were reelected on a mandate against a two-state solution. That is the way the White House is interpreting. The White House says this is divisive, and it's so divisive that now the administration is saying that they will not stop the U.N. from conferring statehood. They will not block -- or at least they're strongly considering not blocking a vote for statehood for Palestinians.
NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, that state would become a terrorist state. Iran says that they will arm the West Bank the way they arm Gaza. We withdrew from Gaza. We got just a few months ago, not ancient history but a few months ago, thousands of rockets, Andrea, on our heads.
MITCHELL: So what does that mean -
NETANYAHU: We don't want it to happen again. And I think the administration has said time and time again that the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated solution. You can't impose peace. And in any case, if you want to get peace, you've got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace.
We also have to make sure that we don't have ISIS coming into that territory. It's only two dozen from our borders, thousands of miles away from yours.
So we need the conditions of recognition of a Jewish state and real security in order to have a realistic two-state solution. And I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace. We are. It's time that we saw the pressure on the Palestinians to show that they are committed too.
MITCHELL: Words have meaning. Tom Friedman wrote today, "They must have been doing high-fives in Tehran when they saw how low Bibi sank to win. What better way to isolate Israel globally and deflect attention from Iran's behavior?"
Joe Klein in "Time" magazine quoted bigotry. Jeffrey Goldberg said that it would be calamitous, the way you talked about Arab voters and the way you talked about not going for a Palestinian state.
NETANYAHU: Well, I explained on the Palestinian state what it is we need. We need a demilitarized state that recognizes a Jewish state.
MITCHELL: Can -- telling your supporters -
NETANYAHU: But an Arab vote is, I think, it's very, very important. First of all, I'm very proud to be the prime minister of all of Israel's citizens, Arabs and Jews alike.
MITCHELL: That's not the way it sounded on election day.
NETANYAHU: Well, if you hear what I said, you might reconsider what you just said and what you quoted. I'm very proud of the fact that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius that -- in which Arabs have free and fair elections. That's sacrosanct. That will never change.