Germany's outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel got a taste of Israeli rejectionism during a joint press conference yesterday with the ultra-nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The 49-year-old, who is a strong proponent of the illegal settlement enterprise and is ideologically opposed to the self-determination of non-Jews in historic Palestine, pushed back against Merkel's support for a two-state solution by insisting that "a Palestinian state would mean a terror state."
Merkel reiterated Germany's traditional position saying that she believes that a two-state solution remains the best way to end Israel's decades-long conflict with the Palestinians. "I think that on this point, even if at this stage it seems almost hopeless, the idea of a two-state solution should not be taken off the table, it should not be buried … and that the Palestinians should be able to live securely in a state," Merkel said.
Speaking in diplomatic language Merkel also denounced Israel's illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories saying that it was unhelpful. But the German chancellor was met with uncompromising rejection by Bennett who is himself a former settler.
"A Palestinian state would mean a terror state," said Bennett pushing back against Merkel. "Based on our experience, the meaning of a Palestinian state means that very likely there will be established a terror state, roughly seven minutes from my house and from almost any point in Israel," he said.
Calling himself a "pragmatic man," he instead said he was prepared to take steps on the ground to improve living conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Bennett's comments on Palestinian statehood were one of the few disagreements between the close allies during Merkel's two-day visit, which caps a 16-year term marked by near unwavering support for Israel.
In response to the remarks made by Bennett, the official spokesman for Palestinian Authority (PA) Nabil Abu Rudeineh is reported saying that "the occupation is the essence of terrorism" and that the Israeli prime minister's approach expresses the colonialist view that opposes peace and stability.
The spokesman also claimed that the Palestinian state with its capital, Eastern Jerusalem, is a UN-recognised state and does not need Bennett's approval or rejection because the Palestinian people do not give up their rights and do not cave to pressure.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official who oversees relations with Israel, also responded angrily. "The worst form of terrorism is the occupation, not the establishment of a Palestinian state," he wrote on Twitter.