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Israeli Political Leaders Disagree On 2-State Peace Solution


Secretary of State John Kerry goes to Jerusalem today to meet with Israel's prime minister, an effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kerry's effort wasn't helped, though, when yesterday Israel announced permits for dozens of new homes in east Jerusalem, an area that's central to Palestinian hopes for its own state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Still, as NPR's Emily Harris in Jerusalem tells us, some of Netanyahu's own government are not on board.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: When President Obama was here in Israel in March, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he's firmly behind a two-state solution.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Let me be clear. Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples.

HARRIS: Last month, his chief negotiator, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said a Palestinian state is Israel's goal.

TZIPI LIVNI: We are going to end the conflict in accordance to the idea of two states for two people. Israel is homeland for the Jewish people and the Palestinian state is homeland for the Palestinians.

HARRIS: And just a couple of weeks ago, Israel's Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz backed Netanyahu on the two-state solution 100 percent.

YUVAL STEINITZ: He is the prime minister of Israel, he's the leader of the Likud Party and he represents all of us about this issue.

HARRIS: Not quite all. Just a week after Steinitz spoke, Israel's economy minister, Naftali Bennett, told a conference of Israeli settlers in the West Bank that a two-state solution is no solution.

NAFTALI BENNETT: (Through interpreter) The idea that a Palestinian state would be formed in the land of Israel has come to a dead end. We need to move away from trying to persuade people that a Palestinian state is inappropriate and would be a mistake and start behaving like this idea is behind us.

HARRIS: Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon made it clear that he would also fight any move toward a two-state peace deal on security grounds.

DANNY DANON: The Palestinian state would be a threat for Israel. We see what's happening today in Gaza, what's happening with Hamas, and we ask ourselves whether we want to see the same forces happening in the West Bank. My answer is no. I preserve the current situation or another vision, but not another state of terror in our backyard.

HARRIS: In Danon's vision, the West Bank would belong to Israel. Palestinians would have a closer relationship with Jordan. Danon just won a key leadership position in Likud, Netanyahu's party.

REUVEN HAZAN: The Likud Party today is in a very strange situation.

HARRIS: Reuven Hazan chairs the political science department at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

HAZAN: If you look at the 31 members of parliament who belong to the party, it is probably more hawkish than it's been in a long, long time. But if you look at the leadership of the party, which is Netanyahu and his group, it is more moderate than it's been for a long, long time.

HARRIS: To Palestinians, Netanyahu does not look moderate, even if he may be compared to other Israeli political leaders. The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, says he gets worried when he hears Israeli politicians say the two-state solution is dead.

SAEB EREKAT: Yeah, I really get scared because I know that disasters throughout history of people, of mankind began with ideas. So when someone like Bennett says that two-state solution is dead, what are they preparing for me?

HARRIS: Erekat acknowledges that some Palestinians have begun pushing for a one-state solution instead, provided everyone in that state, Arabs and Jews alike, has the same voting rights. Demographers say Arabs would quickly outnumber Jews. Political analyst Hazan says that image of a future Israel may give the current effort to restart peace talks some momentum.

HAZAN: I think that Netanyahu has finally gotten it into his head that the more that he delays the two-state solution, he is increasing the likelihood of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution is something that makes any normal person in Israel scared.

HARRIS: One-state or two-state, Hazan doesn't expect a solution to the conflict anytime soon. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.


MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.