A rising star on the right of Israeli politics has cast doubt on whether the country’s government is willing to accept a future Palestinian state.
In a series of interviews in recent days, Danny Danon, Israel’s deputy defence minister and a member of the Likud Party led by the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders – the internationally accepted starting point for peace talks – would not be acceptable for some of his government colleagues.
Mr Danon says that the governing coalition is “staunchly opposed to a two-state solution and would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.”
Speaking to the Times of Israel, Mr Danon said: “Look at the government. There was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution. If you will bring it to a vote in the government – nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it – but if you bring it to a vote, you will see that the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it. The international community can say whatever they want, and we can do whatever we want.”
In an interview with Israeli Radio on Sunday, he added: “We are a nationalist government and not a government that will establish a Palestinian government in 1967 lines.”
The Palestinians, with international support, are seeking a state in areas captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It is anticipated that any final agreement would include several land swaps.
The timing of the comments is embarrassing for the Israeli government as John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, prepares to fly to the region for more talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It is thought the Americans will expect a decision from both sides to renew negotiations within weeks. Mr Kerry and President Barack Obama believe that a two-state solution to the crisis is the only viable option.
Senior Israeli politicians have publicly backed Mr Kerry’s recent effort to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have both stressed that the only solution to the decades-old conflict includes the formation of a viable state for the Palestinians.
Mr Netanyahu’s office took the unusual step of contacting the Times of Israel on Saturday – the Jewish holy day – to distance itself from Mr Danon’s comments. It issued a statement saying that the comments reflect neither the government’s view nor that of Mr Netanyahu. The opposition Labor Party called on Mr Danon to be sacked.
Several Israeli cabinet ministers live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. Others, such as the Trade Minister, Naftali Bennett, leader of the rightist Jewish Home party, have also denounced the idea of a two-state solution.