Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum reacted Sunday night to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at Bar Ilan University, in which he outlined his diplomatic goals. Netanyahu called for the creation of a demilitarized "Palestinian state" beside Israel, but also insisted that the PA first recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which it has so far refused to do, and that it agree to disarm.
In addition, Netanyahu said Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel.
MKs from Likud were largely enthusiastic about the speech, but some criticized Netanyahu's use of the term “Palestinian state.” The Kadima party, on the other hand, praised the Prime Minister for stating for the first time that his goal is indeed a “Palestinian state,” but criticized his other positions.
Netanyahu speaks at Bar Ilan University. (Israel news photo: Flash 90).
MK Danny Danon of Likud said he and fellow Likud MKs would pressure Netanyahu to rescind his statements regarding an Arab state west of the Jordan River. “The Prime Minister said 'Palestinian state' – we'll try to get that part erased,” he said.
"The speech was brilliant, but Netanyahu gave in to American pressure,” he added. “The residents of Israel are not laboratory mice of the new American president,” he said. “Enough Israeli citizens have been killed because of unilateral concessions on our part... I will use all of my influence, among members of the faction and the coalition, to make sure the Prime Minister fails in his aim to create a Palestinian state.”
"By using the term ‘demilitarized Palestinian state’ Netanyahu is attempting to eat a kosher-slaughtered pig. There is no such animal as a demilitarized state."
'The Arabs won't accept it'
Another Likud MK, Yariv Levin, said he supports efforts to reach peace – and therefore, will oppose Netanyahu's call for a PA state. The creation of a PA state would bring conflict, not peace, he said.
“There's no chance that the Arabs will accept the Prime Minister's terms, and therefore continued building is what will determine the future,” Levin explained, calling on the government to allow Jews to build in Judea and Samaria.
Responses from within the Kadima party were more positive. Kadima head Tzipi Livni called the speech “a step in the right direction,” but added that Kadima would wait to see Netanyahu's actions, and would not be impressed by words alone.
MK Otniel Schneller took a stronger stance, calling on his party to support Netanyahu. “The Prime Minister has recognized that Israel has an immediate interest in establishing a Palestinian state. Kadima has a responsibility to provide support,” he said.
Kadima “cannot act like an opposition party when it comes to this issue,” he warned. Schneller is a member of the Shaul Mofaz camp in Kadima, which favors joining Netanyahu's coalition.
Kadima MKs Magali Whbee and Zeev Boim were less enthusiastic than Schneller. Whbee called the speech “an improvement, but a very small one,” noting with satisfaction that Netanyahu used the phrase “Palestinian state,” but adding, that "he made sure to wrap them inside innumerable conditions that could make them unpracticable." Whbee called Netanyahu’s oration “the speech of two states and one thousand conditions.”
Boim accused Netanyahu of torpedoing negotiations with the PA by setting too many conditions, saying, “This is not how you move forward.”
Wallerstein watching Netanyahu speech (Israel news photo: Flash 90).
Nationalist camp: PM betrayed his voters
Responses from the nationalist camp were largely negative. Netanyahu “betrayed the voters' will,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari of National Union. The Prime Minister's willingness to change his stance on a PA state “demonstrates that the Israeli elections are unnecessary – the decisions are made in Washington,” he said. He called the speech “a speech of surrender to the dictates of Obama.”
MK Aryeh Eldad (NU) said that “by using the term ‘demilitarized Palestinian state’ Netanyahu is attempting to eat a kosher-slaughtered pig. There is no such animal as a demilitarized state. Netanyahu knows full well that no political force in the world could prevent such a state from arming itself, making alliances and behaving like a recognized state,” he added.
MK Zevulun Orlev of the Jewish Home party expressed disappointment as well. “Unfortunately, Netanyahu paid lip service to a Palestinian state, and in doing so, disappointed most coalition parties, particularly the Jewish Home,” he said.
“The Netanyahu speech requires a serious discussion in the coalition in order to ensure that the democratic decision in the polls will find its expression in the government’s national policy,” Orlev added.
Initial reactions to the speech among residents of Judea and Samaria were mixed. Pinchas Wallerstein, former Mayor of the Binyamin region, said he was diappointed with the fact that Netanyahu used the phrase “Palestinian state” but noted that he also spoke of “normal life” in the communities of Judea and Samaria. “This means we will continue normal growth in the communities,” he told Voice of Israel radio, “without going overboard.”
PA: Bibi Sabotaging Talks
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas accused Netanyahu of harming Israel-PA talks by insisting that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of Israel and that millions of foreign Arabs claiming the right to live in Israel be settled elsewhere.
"Netanyahu's remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions," said spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah
The Palestinian Authority secretary, Yassir Abed Rabo, called Netanyahu's speech “worthless,” and insulted the Prime Minister personally, calling him “a fraud, a cheat and a liar.”
Senior PA negotiator Saeb Erikat said that “Netanyahu will have to wait a thousand years befire he finds a Palestinian who agrees to his suggestions. He has unilaterally eliminated all of the final status subjects like Jerusalem, refugees and security.”
“I turn to President Obama,” he said – “Netanyahu’s speech is a slap in the face to your speech.”
Gil Ronen contributed to this report.