Netanyahu says Israel won't cede land to Palestinians, despite reports, docs claiming otherwise
Despite past speech, commitments to world and Palestinians, Netanyahu now says Israel won’t withdraw from West Bank; report says Netanyahu aide Dermer promised Blair 'Palestinian state along 67' borders' during past talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not cede territory due to the current climate in the Middle East, appearing to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state, in statements which contradict his famous 2009 Bar Ilan speech in which he vowed his commitment to the two-state solution.
Meanwhile, Ron Dermer, who was Netanyahu's aide at the time of the speech and now serves as Israel's ambassador to the US, reportedly promised Quartet leader Tony Blair that Israel would not only give the Palestinians a state, but one along the lines of 1967 'Green Line'. The commitment were made in writing sometime during Netanyahu's 2009-2013 term as prime minister and were published by Israel's Channel 10 this Sunday.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant," read a statement released by his Likud party.
Party spokesman Elie Bennett said Netanyahu's landmark 2009 Bar Ilan speech, in which he endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, was "not relevant" in the "current realities."
The international community has long pushed for the creation of a Palestinian state on lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
The statement by Netanyahu comes after Ynet published a secret list of concessions made by Netanyahu during his previous term to the Palestinians, concessions which stand in stark contradiction to Netanyahu's current talking points.
Israel's Channel 10 reported that during his previous term, during which time the document in question was being discussed, Netanyahu's aide Ron Dermer spoke with Quartet leader Tony Blair and promised, in writing, that Israel would cede territory that would give the Palestinians a state "identical to the areas Israel captured in 1967."
The comments came during talks preceding Quartet-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. According to the report, Blair was skeptical about Netanyahu's willingness to cede territory as part of a peace deal, prompting Dermer to commit in writing in a bid to quell his concerns and prove Netanyahu was serious.
Dermer vehemently denied the report, saying that "in complete contradiction to what is being reported, no commitment was given to any type of withdrawal at any point."
According to him, the paper was an "attempt to move forward with negotiations based on the international community's principles with Israel retaining the right to disavow any article it is uncomfortable with."
Concession list: 67' borders, Jerusalem and refugees
During his second term as prime minister, Netanyahu sent a close affiliate to negotiate with the Palestinians and offered what appeared to be drastic concessions to the Palestinian leadership on a number of core issues, including land swaps, a potential deal regarding Jerusalem and even a limited right of return for Palestinians.
The concession list was revealed in a document from August 2013 and attained by Ynet's print publication Yedioth Aharonoth summarizing the results of the secret talks between Netanyahu's senior aide, lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' affiliate, Hussein Agha.
The document offers what seems to be an opening for an Israeli return to the 1967 'Green-Line' borders – a longstanding Palestinian demands Netanyahu has rejected as a precondition for a peace deal on numerous occasions – on the basis of a mile-for-mile exchange ratio.
In other words, the document revealed Netanyahu was not only willing to trade land with the Palestinians, but was willing to offer them full restitution for lands seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, implicitly accepting the Palestinian claim on the entirety of the West Bank as land for a future Palestinian state.
As part of the proposed land swap, the document laid out the framework for uprooting a a large number of West Bank settlements and even stipulated leaving some settlers in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control.
"Israelis who will choose to remain in the Palestinian state will live under Palestinian jurisprudence," the document said.
Regarding Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital and has been a nonnegotiable point for Israel, the document's wording was more careful, but not devoid of significance, offering an implicit recognition of the Palestinians' claim on East Jerusalem.
The document also reveals surprising Israeli leeway regarding the much-debated Palestinian right of return for those displaced on the eve of Israel's formation in 1948. The document revealed Israel offered Palestinian 'refugees' the right of return on a personal – as opposed to national – basis.
The article relating to Jerusalem was vaguely worded and appended with a warning: "Any solution must address the historical, social, cultural and effectual ties of both peoples to the city and offer protection to the holy sites."
In response to the report, Netanyahu's office said: "At no point did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to withdraw to 1967-lines, divide Jerusalem or recognize the Palestinian right of return. That was and remains his position."
His office rejected the document as proof of an Israeli concession, saying it was an American proposal that Israel never signed-off on.
Nahum Barnea first published the document