State Department: No comment on Netanyahu and ‘two states’ until after vote

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration will wait out Israel’s elections before commenting on conflicting reports of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s retreat from advancing toward a two-state solution.

“Our commitment to achieving an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state negotiated solution remains strong,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Monday during the daily briefing.

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“We count on having Israeli and Palestinian partners who are also committed to that goal,” she said. “A lot of things are said during election campaigns. We’ll wait to see the policies of the next Israeli government.”

Psaki was responding to a series of conflicting statements over the weekend over the status of Netanyahu’s views on the two-state solution.

The reports come ahead of March 17 elections, and at a time when Netanyahu is under fire from right-wingers for reported concessions he considered in talks with the Palestinians last year.

According to a chronology by the online +972 Magazine, the controversy started when a synagogue newsletter quoted Netanyahu as saying that his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University endorsing the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state was “null and void.”

Netanyahu’s Likud Party then said the remarks were misattributed and were actually solely the views of a Likud lawmaker, Tzipi Hotovely.

According to the party, Netanyahu’s view was that because “in the present situation in the Middle East, any vacated territory will be immediately overtaken by radical Islam and terrorist organizations sponsored by Iran” and that therefore, talk of territorial concession was for now “irrelevant.” The phrasing suggested that in the longer term, Netanyahu had not counted out two states.

Reuters later quoted the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that the Likud statement was also partly wrong: While the office endorsed the view that Netanyahu believes any land conceded now “would be grabbed by Islamist extremists,” it rejected the claim that he viewed talk of concessions as “irrelevant.”