Israel’s Bennett says no Palestinian state as long as he’s prime minister

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has embarked on a trip to Washington for a visit with US President Joe Biden (Reuters)

Israeli prime minister said he would continue to expand existing settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will not allow a Palestinian state to be created under his watch, in an interview ahead of his meeting with US President Biden.

Bennett embarked on his first trip to Washington as Israeli premier earlier this week and is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, followed by a meeting with Biden at the White House on Thursday.

In an interview with The New York Times published late on Tuesday, Bennett said he would expand existing illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

“This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that,” Bennett said.

The Israeli premier, who was a former head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella for Israeli Jewish settlements, said Israel will continue to expand existing Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which have been deemed illegal under international law.

“Israel will continue the standard policy of natural growth,” he said.

The Israeli leader has been opposed to the creation of an independent Palestinian state and declined to comment on whether he would block the Biden administration’s plans to reopen a Palestinian consulate in East Jerusalem. “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It’s not the capital of other nations,” he added.

The United Nations, however, recognises East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory and has said that “Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory.”

Gaza siege

Bennett also said that Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip would continue while Hamas, the de facto ruling power there, maintains weapons and launches rockets towards Israel.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade on the territory since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and took control of the Strip, with the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza severely restricted.

Bennett added that he would be prepared to enter another armed conflict against Hamas, even if it meant losing support from four Palestinian parliamentarians in his coalition.

“I will do what’s necessary to secure my people,” Bennett said. “I will not and never involve political considerations in defense- and security-related decisions.”

Bennett approved the bombardment of what Israel claimed were Hamas locations in Gaza on Saturday and Monday overnight.

Saturday’s bombing of Gaza came after Israeli forces shot and injured more than two dozen Palestinian protesters commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 arson attack on al-Aqsa Mosque.

In the interview, Bennett said he will work to convince US President Joe Biden to abandon his plan to reenter the Iran nuclear deal and present a new strategic vision on the Islamic Republic.

Bennet said the plan would include strengthening ties with Arab countries opposed to Iran’s regional influence and nuclear ambitions, taking diplomatic and economic action against Iran, and continuing Israel’s clandestine attacks on Iran, including what he called “the gray-area stuff.”

“What we need to do, and what we are doing, is forming a regional coalition of reasonable Arab countries, together with us, that will fend off and block this expansion and this desire for domination [by Iran],” Bennett said.

Since Joe Biden assumed office in January, his administration has sought a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In April, the US and Iran informally began talks on re-entering the deal, brokered by five other signatories to the agreement – Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK.

However, the last round of negotiations in Vienna ended without a set date for the next round.

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Disclaimer: Israel's Bennett says no Palestinian state as long as he's prime minister - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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