Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told The New York Times on Tuesday he would oppose American-led attempts to reinstate a lapsed nuclear agreement with Iran and continue Israel’s covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
The interview with Bennett, his first with an international news organization since taking office, comes two days before his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington.
Bennett told the newspaper he would expand communities in Judea and Samaria, declined to respond to questions regarding whether he would back American plans to reopen a consulate for Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem, and ruled out reaching a peace agreement with Palestinian Arabs under his watch.
The Prime Minister stressed that he would use the upcoming meeting with Biden to try to reset the tone of Israel’s relationship with the United States. He said he would seek common ground with the Biden administration on Iran, and promised to arrive at the White House with a new and constructive approach to containing Iran’s nuclear program.
“I call it the good-will government,” he said. “There’s a new dimension here — coming up with new ways to address problems, being very realistic, very pragmatic, and being reasonable with friends.”
Bennett said he would present a new strategic vision on Iran, which he said would include strengthening ties with Arab countries opposed to Iran’s regional influence and nuclear ambitions, taking diplomatic and economic action against Iran, and continuing Israel’s clandestine attacks on Iran, including what he called “the gray-area stuff.”
He did not reveal the details of his new vision for Iran.
On the issue of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Bennett told The New York Times there would be no resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians for the foreseeable future, partly because the Palestinian leadership is fractured and rudderless.
“This government is a government that will make dramatic breakthroughs in the economy. Its claim to fame will not be solving the 130-year-old conflict here in Israel,” Bennett stated.
“This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that. I’m Prime Minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground — how we can focus on what we agree upon,” he added.
The Prime Minister told the newspaper that the blockade on Gaza will remain as long as Hamas continues to arm itself and fire rockets at Israel. He stated said he would be prepared to engage in another war with Hamas even if it lost him the support of the four Arab lawmakers whose backing keeps him in power.
“I will do what’s necessary to secure my people. I will not and never involve political considerations in defense- and security-related decisions,” Bennett stressed.
He also said his government would extend a policy of expanding existing communities in Judea and Samaria, noting that “Israel will continue the standard policy of natural growth.”
When asked whether he would agree to American requests to reopen a consulate facility in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority, Bennett declined to respond, but emphasized that he would never agree to any division of the Israeli capital city.
"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It is not the capital of any other nation," Bennett said.