Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful two-state solution with the Palestinians, in his first post-election interview, with Andrea Mitchell of NBC. Netanyahu also expressed his pride leading people of all different ethnicities, downplayed his differences with President Barack Obama, and reiterated his concerns about a nuclear Iran.
When Mitchell asked him if he had abandoned his commitment to a two-state solution, following his controversial election-eve comments, Netanyahu pushed back:
The premises of your questions are wrong. I haven’t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech in Bar Illan University 6 years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas, that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so can realize a vision of real sustained peace. I don’t want a one state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful, two state solution but for that circumstances have to change.
First of all that state would become a terror state. Iran has said that it would the arm the West Bank the way it armed Gaza. We withdrew from Gaza. We got, just a few months ago – not ancient history but a few months ago – thousands of rockets, Andrea, on our heads … we don’t want it to happen again.
And I think that the administration has said time and time again that the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated solution. You can’t impose peace. And in any case, if you want to get peace, you’ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace.
When Mitchell asked if Netanyahu was being racially divisive, Netanyahu answered that he was proud to be prime minister of all Israelis.
I am very proud to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens — Arab and Jews alike. I am proud that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius in which Arabs have free and fair elections. That’s sacrosanct. That will never change.
Netanyahu was also asked about his approach to the Iranian nuclear threat.
By coming to the U.S. I didn’t mean any disrespect or any attempt at partisanship. I was merely speaking . . . of something that I viewed would endanger the survival of Israel. I felt my obligation to speak up there. But there are so many areas … where we must work together with the United States and with the president. We have no other alternative. We are allies. We have to consult each other … America has no greater ally than Israel and Israel has no greater ally than the United States.
When Mitchell presented Netanyahu with a choice between the deal being negotiated and military action, the prime minister deflected the choice.
I think there are other options as well. I think you can get a better deal. And I think the one that I would have is to reduce Iran’s nuclear capabilities so you increase the breakout time. I mean, if I had a vote on that negotiating team, I would say zero centrifuges.
When pressed further if he would insist on no centrifuges for Iran, Netanyahu responded with some degree of moderation.
I would say that in a smaller number that would be something that Israel and its Arab neighbors wouldn’t love but they could live with. And the second thing, that the important thing is that the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would depend on Iran’s change of behavior, that it would stop supporting terrorism, stop its aggression against just about every country in the region and stop calling, stop threatening the annihilation of Israel.
Toward the end of the interview, when Mitchell asked if his efforts in stymieing Iran’s nuclear program were in any way partisan, Netanyahu responded with a strong negative.
I’m counting on people hearing my view and considering the danger to Israel and I think not only to Israel … Across the broad spectrum … This is not a partisan I received very good feedback from both Democrats and Republicans from the United States and from many other places in the world, and from many countries in the Arab world. And the only thing I would say, Andrea, is when Arabs and Israelis agree on something its worth paying attention.
MSNBC excerpted Netanyahu’s remarks here.
[Photo: MSNBC Screenshot ]