JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday laid out the dilemma facing his administration when it comes to the Palestinian conflict â€” the imperative to avoid a binational state encompassing Israel and the Palestinians, but also to prevent a future Palestinian state from becoming an Iranian proxy. â€œHalf of Palestinian society is dominated by Iranâ€™s proxy,â€ he said in an apparent reference to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu made the statements during an address at the World Economic Forumâ€™s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He said Israel sought peace, but that it needed â€œthree to tangoâ€ â€” Israel, a willing Palestinian partner, and the involvement of the US as the broker of a deal. Netanyahu is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, who oversaw the revival of the peace talks last July, on the sidelines of the Davos event.
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, the prime minister portrayed the Iranian nuclear program as a shared concern for both Israel and Arab states, along with the spread of Islamist movements.
â€œCentral Arab governments are preoccupied with the Iranian nuclear weapons and the Muslim brotherhood,â€ he said. â€œThe nations do not see Israel as an enemy but as a potential ally to combat these threats. They are not assured by the words spoke earlier by the president of Iran. They get it. We all wish there was a real change in Iran.â€
Earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appealed for improved relations with the world, telling the Davos forum that his country had never sought to develop a nuclear weapon.
But Netanyahu averred that only Iranâ€™s words had changed, not its actions, and that the Islamic Republic remained aggressive and continued to develop materials for nuclear weapons, despite a deal with Western powers that curbs its enrichment activity.
Rouhaniâ€™s speech had â€œno connection to whatâ€™s going on on the ground,â€ he contended.
Netanyahu argued that peace with the Palestinians would be advanced if Iran truly changed its policies.
â€œThere would be a great boom for peaceâ€¦The removal of that threat [Iran] would help advance peace,â€ he said.
Netanyahu reiterated his long-held assertion that economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians would advance the peace process, and insisted he was ready for â€œreal secure genuine peace.â€
â€œI hope [Mahmoud] Abbas is too,â€ he added, referring to the Palestinian Authority president.
â€œInvestment in economic peace assists the development of political peace â€” especially with the Palestinians,â€ Netanyahu said. â€œWeâ€™ve had some cooperation between Israeli entrepreneurs and Palestinian entrepreneurs.â€
Netanyahu also pushed back against recent European moves to punish Israel for its presence in the West Bank.
â€œIf Europe is seen as pressuring Israel,â€ he said, â€œit hardens the Palestinian position.â€