Fact Check: Netanyahu’s Remarks to the Center for American Progress
PHOTO: Netanyahu speaks at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, November 10, 2015.
Claim: Netanyahu supports the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
- Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, as does his Likud party and the vast majority of his hardline right-wing government. Reiterating his position in March 2015, he told an interviewer that if reelected he would never allow the establishment of a Palestinian state as long as he is in office. On October 26, 2015, Netanyahu was quoted saying Israel had to retain control over the occupied West Bank, “for the foreseeable future.”
- Netanyahu has spent much of the past 25 years attempting to destroy the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution, even bragging to a group of settlers in 2001, “I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.” In 2009, under pressure from the US and international community, Netanyahu announced for the first time his support for a Palestinian “state”, but attached so many conditions as to render said state devoid of any real independence. As Israel’s current Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, explained in December 2012 that the so-called Bar-Ilan address was merely a "tactical speech for the rest of the world," adding: "We are opposed to a Palestinian state."
Claim: Netanyahu is willing to engage in direct negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions.
- Netanyahu has set numerous preconditions on the final outcome of any agreement that would be reached through negotiations, including repeatedly stating that he will never relinquish control of occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees will be denied their legal right to return to lands they were expelled from during Israel’s creation, and Palestinians must recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” thereby formally acquiescing in the permanent second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise approximately 20% of the population.
Claim: Israel is a democracy with equal rights for all citizens.
- Over the entirety of its 67-year existence, there has been a period of only about one year (1966-67) that Israel has not ruled over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted no political rights simply because they were not Jewish. Prior to 1967 and the start of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Palestinians who remained inside what became Israel in 1948 were ruled by martial law for all but one year, not unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories have been for the past 48 years.
- Today, there are more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel, dealing with everything from land ownership to education, to housing and family reunification rights.
- Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been recognized as a form of apartheid by numerous experts and others including former US President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and at least four Israeli prime ministers (David Ben Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert).
Claim: Settlements are not an obstacle to peace; there have been no new settlements built in the last 20 years; and they only cover a tiny amount of the occupied West Bank.
- Successive Israeli governments have systematically destroyed the two-state solution through the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land that is supposed to comprise the Palestinian state. Today, there are approximately 650,000 Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
- Today, Israeli settlements and related infrastructure, including Israeli-only roads and Israeli military bases, cover approximately 42% of the occupied West Bank
- Since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the number of settlers in the West Bank has grown by approximately 120,000. This figure doesn’t include East Jerusalem settlements, where according to Haaretz newspaper “for the past six years settlement construction has been at its highest annual level since 2000.” During his first term (1996-99) the number of new settlement housing units grew by an average of nearly 3,000 a year.
Claim: Israel treats Israelis accused of attacking Palestinians the same as Palestinians accused of attacking Jews and settler violence against Palestinians is uncommon.
- As noted by international, Palestinian, and Israeli human rights groups, Israel has implemented a two-tiered justice system that treats Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel very differently. Additionally, Israel has imposed a system of military courts for Palestinians in the occupied territories that falls far short of the minimum standards required for a fair trial, while Jewish settlers living right next door are treated according to Israeli civilian law.
- According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, approximately 94% of criminal investigations initiated by the Israeli military into soldiers suspected of violent crimes against Palestinians and their property are closed without an indictment. As Yesh Din notes, "In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing."
- In May 2015, Yesh Din released a report entitled "Standing Idly By: IDF Soldiers' Inaction In The Face Of Offenses Perpetrated By Israelis Against Palestinians In The West Bank," detailing how soldiers in Israel's occupying army fail to protect Palestinians living under their control. Regarding the double standard towards Israeli Jews who throw stones at Palestinians and Israeli security forces, the report quoted an Israeli soldier stating: "A Jew throws rocks - the soldiers will call the police. The soldiers won't point their guns at him. They will not arrest him. They won't do anything to him. The police likely won't either, except for telling him off."
- According to the US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, released in the spring of 2015, “Violence by settlers against the Palestinian population continued to be a problem, as did inconsistent punishment of these acts by Israeli authorities.” The report also noted:
According to Israeli and Palestinian NGO and press reports, the IDF and [Israeli police] did not respond sufficiently to violence perpetrated against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank… [The UN] reported that 90 percent of Palestinian complaints of settler violence in recent years were closed without indictment.
- On May 12, 2014, two former heads of Israel's secret police, the Shin Bet, Carmi Gillon and Shabtai Shavit, accused the Netanyahu government of not being interested in stopping hate crimes against Palestinians. Gillon declared: "We don't see results, because we're not intended to see them... There's no such thing as 'can't do' in the Shin Bet, just 'don't want,'" while Shavit stated: "Israel is a lawful country that does not enforce its laws."
- In June 2012, Dan Halutz, former chief of staff of the Israeli Army, also said that the Netanyahu government isn't serious about stopping settler violence, stating: "If we wanted, we could catch them [settlers who are attacking Palestinians] and when we want to, we will."
- In March 2012, the Guardian newspaper reported that senior European Union officials had drafted a confidential report concluding that Jewish settlers are engaged in a systematic and growing campaign of violence against Palestinians and that "settler violence enjoys the tacit support of the state of Israel."