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UK minister condemns Netanyahu’s ‘disappointing’ rejection of a Palestinian state

Defence secretary Grant Shapps says Britain is ‘wedded’ to the idea of a two-state solution

Adam Forrest
Political correspondent
Sunday 21 January 2024 17:51 GMT
Grant Shapps condemns ‘disappointing’ Netanyahu rejection of Palestinian state

The defence secretary has condemned comments by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting the idea of Palestinian statehood.

Grant Shapps said the government remains “wedded” to the idea of a two-state solution, arguing that there is no other option.

The British government has largely resisted criticising Israel since Mr Netanyahu instructed his military to launch strikes on Gaza, which are reported to have killed more than 25,000 people so far, in the wake of the 7 October Hamas attack.

But Mr Shapps has issued a strong rebuke to Mr Netanyahu’s rejection of Palestinian sovereignty and his insistence that his country needs to be given full security control over the occupied territories.

“I think it’s disappointing to hear Benjamin Netanyahu saying he doesn’t believe in a two-state solution,” he told Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

Mr Shapps added: “In fairness, he’s said that [for] all of his political career, as far as I can tell. I don’t think we get to a solution unless we have a two-state solution.”

Addressing Mr Netanyahu’s remarks later on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Shapps said: “Palestinians deserve a sovereign state. Israel deserves to have the full ability to defend itself, its own security.”

Grant Shapps visits Israel in December to offer support in the wake of the Hamas terror attack (PA)

He added: “Now, you’ll get a lot of different views within the Israeli government, of course; it is a rainbow coalition. So we very much distinguish between the views of individuals and our overall support for Israel as a country.”

Mr Netanyahu raised the stakes between Israel and the US, the UK and other allies by doubling down on his rejection of a two-state solution via a statement on X last week.

“I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over the entire area west of Jordan – and this is contrary to a Palestinian state,” the Israeli leader said.

It came in defiance of Joe Biden, who hours earlier, following a call with the Israeli leader, had voiced hope that a two-state solution might still be possible even while Mr Netanyahu remains in office.

The US president had claimed that Mr Netanyahu was not opposed to all two-state solutions.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu insists his country must take control of Gaza (Reuters)

But in a new statement, the Israeli prime minister’s office said Mr Netanyahu had told Mr Biden that “after Hamas is destroyed, Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has also denounced Mr Netanyahu’s position. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper on Sunday echoed the Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, saying: “Those words from Netanyahu were completely unacceptable.”

She told Sky News: “Statehood of a people is not in the gift of its neighbour; it is the right of a people, and it is the right of the Palestinian people.”

Mr Lammy said on Saturday that Mr Netanyahu’s stance would mean that the “occupation and siege continues” in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll is now above 25,000 – the majority being women and children – according to local health authorities in the Hamas-run territory.

David Lammy dashes off stage as speech interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the offensive in Gaza in the months to come, despite mounting pressure on Israel to rein in its military action as the scale of death and destruction intensifies.

The White House announced last week that it was the “right time” for Israel to lower the intensity of its military action in Gaza.

Israel launched the offensive after an unprecedented cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October, in which 1,200 people were killed and some 240 others taken hostage.

Roughly 130 hostages are believed by Israel to remain in Hamas captivity. Israel’s assault on Gaza has been one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.

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