'There Has Never Been a Palestinian State - That's a Lie'
Economics Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has continued his calls to annex parts of Judea and Samaria, in response to the repeated failure of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Following a letter yesterday to Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which he urged the PM to implement his "Plan B" alternative to a "two-state solution" with the PA, Bennett took his message to the international media last night, in an interview with CNN.
Dismissing suggestions that Israel was responsible for the collapse of peace talks by building homes in Jerusalem, Bennett pointed out that the talks had already ground to a halt after PA leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to even recognize Israel's existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while simultaneously demanding Israeli recognition of a "Palestinian homeland."
"The reality... is that the era of these negotiations is over - it's time for plan B... a new approach," he said. "The approach that we've been applying for 20 years now clearly has reached its end."
Bennett rejected out of hand calls for Israel to freeze construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as part of proposals to eventually partition the city between the Jewish state and a future "Palestinian state".
"Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for just about 3,000 years, and just like I would never suggest to freeze building in London, where you're sitting" Israel should not be expected to "freeze our own building in our own state", he said.
Responding to his interviewer's claim that "there has been Palestinian life in Jerusalem for thousands of years," he retorted: "You're talking about a Palestinian presence? Has there ever been a Palestinian state? Show me what its flag was, show me what its anthem was, show me who its leader is - show me anything that mentions the word 'Palestinians' more than 65 or 80 years ago.
"There has never been 'Palestinian state' - that's one of the big lies that they've managed to press forward. The reality is that it's been the Jewish land for 3,000 years, it's still our land."
Unlike initiatives until now, his "new approach" would be achieved "from the bottom up" - most crucially by investing on the ground in initiatives to improve the quality of life for Jews and Arabs alike in Judea and Samaria - he explained.
Under the plan, which Bennett has advocated for since his entrance into politics, Israel would annex "Area C", where all Jewish communities are located, but only a small number of Arab towns and villages.
Those roughly 40,000 Palestinian Arabs living in Area C would be offered Israeli citizenship, while Areas A and B would be granted full autonomy from Israel.
Area C refers to the portions of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli control, whereas Areas A and B are under full or partial PA control respectively.