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After Election, Netanyahu Dials Back Rhetoric

Newly re-elected prime minister says he still wants a two-state solution

Stephanie Butnick
March 19, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on March 18, 2015. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on March 18, 2015. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Days after winning Israel’s election in a last-minute surge after delivering a message warning right-wing supporters that Arab voters were heading to the polls “in droves” and insisting he wouldn’t let a two-state solution happen under his watch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is changing his tune. In his first post-election interview, Netanyahu sat down with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, and explained that he didn’t mean what it sounded like he meant when he said all those things.

Asked right off the bat about his comments, Netanyahu tells Mitchell, “The premises of your questions are wrong. I haven’t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech at Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestine State that recognizes the Jewish State. What has changed is the reality.”

“I don’t want a one-state solution,” he adds. “I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change.”

Mitchell pushes back, saying that his re-election mandate was essentially against a two-state solution—noting that’s at least how the U.S. Administration has interpreted it.

“I think the Administration has said time and time again that the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated solution, you can’t impose peace,” Netanyahu counters. “And in any case, if you want to get peace, you’ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace.”

Of his seemingly anti-two-state comment, he said, “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”

Netanyahu also made a point to tell Mitchell how proud he was to be prime minister of both Jews and Arabs, downplaying his 11th hour warning to right-wing supporters about the high numbers of Arab voters coming out on election day.

He added that he meant no disrespect to President Obama with his much-discussed speech to Congress last month. More significant, though, he offered a notable concession on the proposed U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, saying that while he preferred a zero uranium enrichment capacity, he’d accept a small enrichment capacity.

You can watch the full interview here:

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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