Netanyahu again Pushed Aside Negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel launched New Strikes in GazaWorld | February 2, 2023, Thursday // 10:52| views
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his vision for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, but with limited military sovereignty and possibly only possible after his country achieves peace with more Arab countries - particularly Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu made the comments in an interview with CNN after days of rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, including over a series of attacks on Israelis that followed one of the deadliest operations in the occupied West Bank. Part of the escalation has to do with the coming to power of the most far-right government in Israeli history and the presence of figures like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in the cabinet.
And to CNN, Netanyahu assured that he is in control of the situation and is in charge of the policies.
Days after the attack in front of a synagogue in East Jerusalem, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also in the country, hinting that the future of the strategic partnership with Israel depends on solving the issue through the creation of a Palestinian state and on the state of Israeli democracy (questioned from controversial judicial reform).
At the same time, the prime minister made it clear that he did not understand the concern about negotiations with the Palestinians, since his plan was to first achieve peace in the Arab world and only then "return" to them.
Netanyahu is relying on the approach that former US President Donald Trump stood behind in 2020. The so-called Abraham Accords envisage the normalization of Israel's relations with the Arab world as a step towards peace in the Middle East. There have already been such breakthroughs with the countries of the Gulf (especially the United Arab Emirates) and North Africa, but the idea reverses the concept of Saudi Arabia, behind which most Arab countries stood: first you need to solve the Palestinian issue, and only then you can talk about official relations with Israel.
First peace in the Middle East, then - with the Palestinians
The Israeli leader suggests the opposite. He insisted to CNN that he again bypassed the Palestinians in the concept of expanding the "circle of peace" around Israel - between the country and Arab states.
“I bypassed them, went straight to the Arab countries and forged a new concept of peace... I forged four historic peace agreements, the Abrahamic Accords, which is twice the number of agreements reached by my successors in 70 years.”
Netanyahu is referring to the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco; until the Abraham Accords - brokered with the help of the Trump administration - Israel had formal relations with only two Arab countries, neighboring Egypt and Jordan.
Saudi Arabia - seen as the "grand prize" that Israel is aiming for - has for now stuck to its idea that the Palestinian issue should be resolved first and only then normalization. Netanyahu takes the opposite direction: in his words, when Riyadh leans toward normalization and "when the Arab-Israeli conflict is practically over, I think we will go back to the Palestinians and get an acceptable peace with the Palestinians."
His vision for a Palestinian state, meanwhile, coincides with that presented by Trump in his Middle East plan in early 2020, as it does not envisage security sovereignty. "Well, I certainly want to give them all the power they need to govern themselves. But none of the powers that can threaten (us), and that means Israel should have the primary responsibility for security."
From his words it can be understood that the disagreement with the US also remains over the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which worry the administration of Joe Biden (and a number of predecessors), but also international organizations, which have declared them illegal. "I completely disagree," he said when asked to comment on US concerns that Israeli settlements could hinder peace with the Palestinians.
“We will have to live together. 20% of Israel's population is Arab. We cannot say that we will not have peace until we expel all the Arabs, nor until we expel the Jews from these areas (the West Bank) - they are not illegal, they are controversial.”
New strikes in Gaza
Meanwhile, Israeli forces attacked targets in the Gaza Strip after rockets were fired from there at Israeli territory, the world agencies and BTA report.
According to the army, the strikes targeted "a production site for raw materials for chemical materials as well as a weapons production site" believed to belong to the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza. Sources of AFP speak otherwise - about an attack on a training center of "Ezzeldin al-Qassam", the armed wing of "Hamas".
According to unconfirmed media reports, Israeli fighter jets attacked targets in a refugee camp in central Gaza. A few hours before the Israeli attack, the military intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, the army said.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hold Hamas responsible for all terrorist activity emanating from Gaza and will bear the consequences of security violations against Israel, the Israeli military announced on Twitter.
The new escalation follows claims by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that rockets were fired in response to "systemic aggression" against Palestinian prisoners in Israel. It came after far-right security minister Ben Gvir announced he would go ahead with an already announced plan to introduce tougher measures for such prisoners.
Blinken expressed his "deep concern at the current trajectory" of the conflict during his visit this week.
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