Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel must have a presence in the West Bank even after a peace agreement is achieved, the first time he has spelled out such a demand.
He said the experience of rocket attacks from the Lebanese and Gaza borders means Israel must be able to prevent such weapons from being brought into a Palestinian entity in the West Bank.
"We cannot afford to have that across from the center of our country," he told foreign reporters Wednesday in Jerusalem.
"We are surrounded by an ever-growing arsenal of rockets placed in the Iranian-supported enclaves to the north and to the south," he said, referring to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Later, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Netanyahu's call for an Israeli presence in a future Palestinian state.
"Once again Netanyahu asks for dictation, not negotiations," Erekat said.
Bibi calls for tough Iran sanctions
Netanyahu outlined the defensive systems Israel is developing to knock down incoming rockets, but he admitted that they are "prohibitively expensive." He said that Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza get their rockets from neighboring countries, and that must be stopped.
At the news conference, Netanyahu also appealed for tough international sanctions against Iran. He said there is "wide acceptance" of Israel's view that Iran poses a strategic threat because of its nuclear program.
"The question is, is there a willingness to act. We will soon find out," he said.