Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today appeared before The Economic Club of Washington where he was interviewed by Club President David M. Rubenstein.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
“I think most Israelis would favor a situation where we could separate from the Palestinians. I don’t want the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and I don’t want them as subjects of Israel. So I want a solution when they have all the powers they need to govern themselves, but none of the powers that would threaten us. What that means is that whatever the solution is, the area west of the Jordan, that includes the Palestinian areas, would be militarily under Israel. The security, the overriding security and responsibility would be Israel’s.
I’ll give an example. When you come into Israel, and you fly in, you go to Ben-Gurion Airport, you cross the Mediterranean, you land in Ben-Gurion airport. That will take you about 45 seconds. Ben-Gurion Airport is about 10 seconds away from the West Bank. So obviously, if you say, well, Israel’s airspace stops there, at Ben-Gurion Airport, you know we’re dead. So we need bigger airspace. That’s going to go across the Palestinian area.
The same thing is true – what is above ground, in the air, is underground too, as it turns out because of terror tunnels below the ground too. Israel must have the overriding security responsibility for the area west of the Jordan River. Does that comfort with full sovereignty? I don’t know. But it’s what we need to live. And in this area, the Middle East, full of failed states, states that collapsed, it’s very important that Israel be the power responsible for security because otherwise everyone collapses. The Palestinians collapse.
In every area that we left militarily, militant Islam came in. we left Lebanon, Iran came in with Hezbollah. We left Gaza, Iran came in with Hamas. We leave the West Bank militarily, or most of it as people stipulate in their various peace plans, you have either Hamas coming in – that’s Iran, or you have Isis coming in. This is a catastrophe for peace.
The answer to your question is, most people would agree to an arrangement of the kind that you’re talking about if they thought that the Palestinians wanted a state next to Israel. But they’re convinced more and more that they want a state instead of Israel. And that’s not a real peace. People would go for a real peace, not a fake one.”
“I think there’s a new hope on the horizon that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, and it’s not related to the Palestinians – it’s related to the Arab world. Because of the growing danger of Iran, more and more, I would say virtually all the Arab countries, no longer see Israel as their enemy, but as their vital ally in countering the threat of militant Islam. First ISIS, and Israel has demolished Isis terrorist attacks, dozens of major attacks, we foiled with our supreme intelligence, including the downing of major, I mean big airlines. Israel stopped that. We’ve shared that, obviously with America but with dozens of countries, and with the Arabs. But the other thing that the Arabs see is that we are united in stopping the greatest radical Islamic threat of war which is Iran.
Out of this curse comes a blessing. The blessing is this extraordinary relationship between us, and I think that ultimately we might be able to shift the ground. I don’t think it’s really available right now but I don’t discount that it could happen.
We used to say that if we make peace with the Palestinians we’ll break out and normalize our relations with the Arab world. I think it actually may work more the other way around. We normalize our relations with the Arab world to help change the perception of the Palestinians.”