The World

Did Netanyahu Just Say What He Really Thinks About a Two-State Solution?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says what he means to say.

Photo by Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

An article in the Times of Israel by David Horovitz is getting a lot of attention for seeming to confirm what has been widely assumed for some time—that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of pursuing a two-state solution:

Netanyahu has stressed often in the past that he doesn’t want Israel to become a binational state — implying that he favors some kind of accommodation with and separation from the Palestinians. But on Friday he made explicit that this could not extend to full Palestinian sovereignty. Why? Because, given the march of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, he said, Israel simply cannot afford to give up control over the territory immediately to its east, including the eastern border — that is, the border between Israel and Jordan, and the West Bank and Jordan.


The priority right now, Netanyahu stressed, was to “take care of Hamas.” But the wider lesson of the current escalation was that Israel had to ensure that “we don’t get another Gaza in Judea and Samaria.” Amid the current conflict, he elaborated, “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”

Members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet have expressed views like this before, but the prime minister himself has at least publicly stated his support for a Palestinian state, albeit one with some major limitations.

Max Fisher of Vox maintains that it is still “within the realm of possibility to simultaneously end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank while also meeting Netanyahu’s apparent demand for some continued Israeli security control.”


But in the near term, I’m not really sure there’s much political pressure on Netanyahu to take such a step.

Thanks to Hamas’ utterly cynical and violent response to its own increasing international isolation, the newly cooperative government in Cairo, and the remarkable success of Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system in making the rocket—and now drone—attacks coming from Gaza entirely ineffectual, my guess is that the current flare-up in violence is likely to only increase the preference for the status quo, rather than any politically risky moves to scale back the occupation of the West Bank or lift the blockade on Gaza.

The status quo is intolerable for Palestinians—particularly in Gaza—and in the long run unsustainable for Israel, but even before today’s statement, it was clear that Netanyahu had little intention of upsetting it.