In one of the most belligerent oppositions to the national aspiration of the Palestinian people by an outgoing Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged lawmakers to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, warning that it would pose a threat to Israel's very existence.
Speaking to the Knesset ahead of the vote approving the new government on Sunday, Netanyahu praised his record in rejecting international pressure to cease the construction of illegal settlements; Iran's nuclear deal, and Palestinian statehood while also throwing down a challenge to the new coalition government, led by the far-right nationalist Naftali Bennett, to stand up to any form of pressure from the international community.
"Apart from Iran, the second challenge we face is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state that threatens our existence. The new administration in the United States has already revived efforts in this direction," Netanyahu said.
Since coming to office, US President Joe Biden has been desperate to undo the damage of his predecessor Donald Trump who unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Israelis, along with their Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were the strongest opponents of the deal signed by European powers, the US, China, and Russia, known as the Join Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Netanyahu also railed against the Biden administration's stance on Israel's sprawling settlements enterprise which is illegal under international law. "It has already demanded that we now freeze settlement building in Judea and Samaria and freeze construction of new Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. I firmly rejected an appeal to freeze construction in Arnona and Givat Hamatos," Netanyahu said, referring to the occupied West Bank with its biblical name.
Denouncing the US plans to re-opening of an American consulate in occupied East Jerusalem, Netanyahu warned that such a proposal "will put the division of Jerusalem back on the agenda" and that if the US wished to establish a consulate it should do it in Abu Dis, not in "sovereign Jerusalem."
Palestinians have rejected the proposal favoured overwhelmingly by Israelis to make Abu Dis the capital of any future Palestinian state. The plan was put forward by the administration of former US President Donald Trump as part of its failed "deal of the century".
Despite optimism around Netanyahu's demise, there has been no indication that on the crucial issue of Palestinian rights the new government will seek to change course. Bennett, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yamina Party and describes himself as "more right-wing" than Netanyahu and is more hawkish as indicated by his previous remarks that the creation of a Palestine state would be "suicide" for Israel. He has also called for the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank.