Israeli cabinet pushes back against ‘unilaterally forced’ Palestinian state

The U.S. and its Arab partners are ‘rushing’ to finalize a plan to establish a Palestinian state, which could be announced in the next few weeks.

By Charles Bybelezer, JNS

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a statement rejecting any unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, amid reports the Biden administration is considering such a move.

“In light of remarks that have been heard recently in the international community about an attempt to unilaterally force a Palestinian state on Israel, today I submit for government approval a declarative decision on the issue. I am certain that it will receive very broad support,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.

His office subsequently released the text of the statement:

1. Israel utterly rejects international diktats regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. A settlement, if it is to be reached, will come about solely through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.

2. Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre would be a massive and unprecedented reward to terrorism and would prevent any future peace settlement.

According to Ynet, Netanyahu coordinated the statement with War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz and Cabinet Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Sa’ar said that the reported U.S. proposal for a “firm timeline” on the creation of a Palestinian state “would be like the sacrificing of Czechoslovakia in 1938,” referring to the Munich Agreement and West’s attempted appeasement of Hitler prior to WWII and the Holocaust.

Energy Minister Eli Cohen, who was foreign minister until last month, told Army Radio that “if the price of expanding [the Abraham Accords] is a Palestinian state, then I’ll give up on the peace agreements.”

He was referring to the 2020 Trump administration-brokered deals that normalized relations between Israel and four Arab countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations annual conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew seemed to downplay reports that Washington is considering recognizing a Palestinian state.

“Underscoring everything is that Israel must be secure. This means that Israel must be responsible for defending itself, and there cannot be a militarized Palestinian state,” Lew stated.

However, “if the normalization conversation with Saudi Arabia is to be achieved, there must be an over-the-horizon process that includes a vision for a demilitarized Palestinian state,” he added.

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration was preparing to make a major push for Palestinian statehood. According to the report, the U.S. and its Arab partners are “rushing” to finalize a plan to establish a Palestinian state, which could be announced in the next few weeks if a deal to release the remaining 134 hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza in exchange for a six-week pause in the war takes effect before the start of Ramadan next month.

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During an address to the nation on Saturday night, Netanyahu doubled down on his opposition to such eventuality, describing it as a reward for terrorism.

“An arrangement will be achieved only by direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. Under my leadership, Israel will continue to strongly oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” the prime minister said.

“And when do they want to give such unilateral recognition? After the terrible massacre of Oct. 7. There can be no greater and unprecedented prize to terrorism, which will also prevent any future peace agreement,” he added.

Hours later, Netanyahu’s office released a statement describing as “fake news” an Israel Hayom report claiming he was considering a “de facto” agreement with Washington to recognize a Palestinian state in exchange for normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, a senior source in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to JNS that there was no truth to the Israel Hayom report.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Riyadh would suffice with a declared Israeli commitment to the two-state solution in order to normalize ties with Jerusalem as part of a broad agreement including a defense pact with the United States.

Citing three unnamed sources, the report said the Saudis are eyeing a deal before the U.S. presidential election in November, and that Israel’s war against Hamas had not entirely derailed diplomatic efforts.

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Days later, Riyadh clarified that it would not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until there is a Palestinian state, an end to the war against Hamas and a complete military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The Saudis froze U.S.-backed normalization negotiations shortly after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre sparked the current war.

According to the most recent “Peace Index” survey released by Tel Aviv University, when asked whether they supported the creation of a “Palestinian” state alongside Israel, 66% of Jewish respondents said they opposed such a move while 27% expressed support for the creation of a “Palestine.”