Israel will not return to peace talks with the Palestinians so long as they have a “fractured and rudderless” government, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the New York Times ahead of a visit to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden.
“I’m prime minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground – how we can focus on what we agree upon,” Bennett told the newspaper.
He said that while Israel would not annex any part of the West Bank, it would also not allow the creation of a Palestinian state.
“This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that,” he said. “I’m prime minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground — how we can focus on what we agree upon.”
In Jewish settlements in the West Bank, “Israel will continue the standard policy of natural growth,” the Israeli premier said.
Bennett was unequivocal when it came to defending Israel’s actions in Gaza “as long as Hamas, which controls the territory, continues to arm itself and fire rockets at Israel,” despite opposition from his coalition partners in the Islamist Ra’am party.
“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 also reiterated his promise to present Biden with a “new strategy” on Iran that that would include Arab nations that also feel threatened by Tehran’s hegemonic aspirations.
“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.