The Prime Minister of the Israeli occupation government, Naftali Bennett, ruled out signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians, or the establishment of a State for them, during his government. He vowed to continue the "natural growth" of the settlements and considered Jerusalem the capital of Israel. These statements were made during a press conference held in Jerusalem on Sunday with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Bennett reiterated his opposition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, expressing his conviction that "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."
Bennett described himself as a "very pragmatic person", noting that his government is "undertaking a series of actions on the ground in order to make things easier for everyone, for Jews, for Arabs, in Judea and Samaria (the term Israel uses to describe the West Bank) and in Gaza."
In turn, Merkel expressed her firm support for the two-state solution stressing, at the same time, that Israel's security will be a priority for any future German government. This comes during Merkel's last visit to Israel before her retirement from politics.
The official spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, responded to statements by Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, saying, "The occupation is the essence of terrorism" and explained that Bennett's statements are "rejected and express the colonialist ideology that rejects peace and stability." In his statement on Sunday evening, Abu Rudeineh added, "The Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is a globally-recognised State and has been an observer member of the United Nations since 29 November, 2012 and, therefore, it does not need Bennett's approval or rejection because the Palestinian people do not give up their rights, regardless of pressure."
He added, "True peace will not be achieved unless the Israeli occupation of our territories and holy places is ended. The Palestinian people will not surrender their rights and sanctities and will preserve their territories and inalienable rights."
Bennett's statements carry messages to the American administration and the European Union that the Israelis do not want to return to the negotiating table to discuss the peace process that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital. Those betting on Bennett's government to achieve peace, or to potentially return to negotiations, are mistaken because the Bennett-Lapid government is a settlement and racist government that is more extreme than the former government. It is no different to Netanyahu's government, which is also a government of occupation, colonial settlement and racial discrimination, like the one before it, and the one before that.
Bennett, with his statements, is more extreme than Netanyahu. He denies Palestinian national rights and considers the Palestinians as a community that has no political rights, saying, "We are not ignoring the Palestinians, they are our neighbours. They're not going anywhere; we're not going anywhere." However, he followed this with his statement, "At the same time, we have learned from experience that a Palestinian State means that it is highly likely that a terror state will emerge seven minutes away from my own house … I am a very pragmatic person. We are undertaking a series of actions on the ground in order to make things easier for everyone, for Jews, for Arabs, in Judea and Samaria, and in Gaza." He believes that the most his government can offer the Palestinians is economic facilities in the context of security for economy.
There is a conflict in the political visions of the occupation government components, especially between the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, who visited Abbas in Ramallah recently. Bennett claimed that "what is available is progress in the trade and economic field. Everyone understands that there is no political path towards a Palestinian State; that is completely irrelevant." In Bennett's opinion, "this does not mean that nothing should be done. On the contrary, there is an area in which we can move forward and reduce the size of the conflict; Intellectually, commercially and economically." Regarding the continuation of the state of tension with Gaza, he states that he is working to completely stop the rockets and balloons and return the captured soldiers. He also noted that he is seeking to achieve a settlement and truce with Hamas, who governs the Gaza Strip.
The Bennett-Lapid government has a complex structure and is, at the same time, a fragile government. Its weakness lies in its inflexibility and refusal to negotiate and recognise the national and political rights of the Palestinian people, and the statements of its extremist Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked, that "The prime minister won't meet with him and doesn't intend to meet with him," referring PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, noting that Abbas is not a partner. This is a true reflection of this government, which we cannot count on to achieve peace. Bennett's statements at the press conference with Merkel reflect the truth and essence of this right-wing racist government's opinions towards the Palestinian people.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 13 October 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.