Netanyahu: Israel must keep security control in a peace deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the “real test” of a two-state solution is Palestinians, Arabs and the world accepting Israeli security control over areas ceded in a peace deal.

By: Bradley Klapper, AP

The prime minister, who later met with members of Congress, said Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself. This includes threats from any territory Israel relinquishes, including hundreds of miles (kilometers) of borders subject to potential tunneling.

Palestinians oppose this demand because they see it as blocking a “fully sovereign” Palestinian state, the Israeli leader said at the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. But he cited World War II losers, Germany and Japan, and South Korea, as countries that prospered under foreign security control.

He didn’t say if Israel could eventually relinquish security control west of the Jordan River — part of past U.S. peace plans.

After an hour-long meeting with senators, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said Netanyahu planned to meet on Wednesday with Secretary of State Kerry and that the peace effort would be on their agenda.

U.S.-Israel relations were seriously strained by the nuclear deal that the U.S. and its partners signed with Iran, which will receive relief from sanctions in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program.

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“We didn’t dwell on the Iran nuclear agreement. Talked about it. But didn’t dwell on it,” said Durbin. “This was an important step back into a bipartisan relationship.”

“We have to have more dialogue and more understanding as to the current security challenges facing Israel. … As important as I believe the Iran nuclear agreement was, it doesn’t make Israel a safe nation. It is still in danger,” Durbin said.

“He talked about the current threats from Iran and they are substantial.”

In the wake of the nuclear agreement, the Obama administration is considering increasing the amount of security assistance to Israel. Annual U.S. aid to Israel currently exceeds $3 billion a year.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said no dollar amount was discussed at the meeting.

He played down any rift Netanyahu has with Congress, saying those senators who voted for the Iran nuclear deal went out of their way at the meeting to explain to Netanyahu that there is bipartisan support for Israel in Congress. According to Corker, Netanyahu said he knew that.