The speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, has called to “remove” the idea of a Palestinian state from the table and backed Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank.
The proposal is likely to worry allies of Israel who have long viewed the existence of a Palestinian state as the only safeguard to ensuring that Israel does not drift into an apartheid state.
The Russian-born Knesset Member (MK) – who was recently elected to the second place on the ruling Likud party’s ticket ahead of the upcoming general election on 9 April – said today at a conference in Jerusalem that “we have turned the wheel substantially to the right, the Palestinian state is no longer an agenda item, but Israeli sovereignty in [the occupied West Bank] is”.
Edelstein, who is a possible Likud leader, said that Israel should consider applying sovereignty over the occupied territories, which are internationally recognised as the location of any future Palestinian state.
Inviting right wing parties to form a coalition with Likud, Edelstein continued: “It took us 20 years to eschew the idea of a Palestinian state – if the left gets in [during the election] it will take them 20 seconds to put it back on the agenda”.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the right remains in control. A large right-wing bloc led by the Likud, together with a contingent of religious-Zionist MKs, is the solution,” added Edelstein.
The Israeli right-wing – who currently hold sway in the Knesset – staunchly reject the creation of a Palestinian state while insisting that anyone who questions Israel’s existence is anti-Semitic. Progressives in Israel and the country’s western allies view the two-state solution as the best assurance in maintaining Israel’s Jewish and democratic characteristic.
Critics of Israel go further and argue that the failure to create a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and end Israel’s control over the lives of five million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip will turn Israel into an apartheid state.
The current government of Israel includes many of the staunchest opponents to a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – despite saying that he supports two states – has repeatedly insisted that no Palestinian state will be created while he is in office. Many of his ministers have also strongly reject the international consensus on granting Palestinians the right to statehood.
A poll conducted last year by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research and the Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that support for the two-state solution among Israeli Jews was the lowest in almost two decades.