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Netanyahu says West Bank benefits from Israeli military presence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial ceremony for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at Mount Herzl military cemetery, as Israel marks the 22nd anniversary of Rabin's killing by an ultra-nationalist Jewish assassin, in Jerusal
Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP
Abbas' spokesperson said security would only come with an independent Palestinian state

The Palestinian Authority benefits from Israel’s presence in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly Wednesday.

“Guess who benefits from that? It's not only us, it's the PA. They'd be overrun in two minutes,” Netanyahu said pointing to a purported plot by Hamas to assassinate PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“A couple of years ago we uncovered a plot of 100 Hamas to kill Abu Mazen. Not kill him politically – kill him. So if we weren't there, they'd not be there, which is exactly what happened when we left Gaza.”

The comments come as the rift between Hamas and the PA has deepened in the wake of Gaza border violence that has prompted international efforts to focus on cutting a peace deal between Hamas and Israel.

Abbas has felt increasingly sidelined by the ongoing Egyptian-brokered negotiations, and has said his government would only lift punitive sanctions targeting Hamas if the group agrees to cede control over the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu further highlighted the origins of the divide between the two main Palestinian authorities, describing how the PA’s presence in Gaza dwindled following Israel’s withdrawal from the strip in 2005.

“They were there in Gaza, they had 15,000 armed men, Hamas had 3, 000, within two days or a few days, a few weeks, they kicked them out. And we can't afford that happening in Judea Samaria, the West Bank or any good part of it, which is about 20 times the size of Gaza,” he said.

Anas BABA (AFP)

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published Tuesday accused the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip of arbitrarily arresting and torturing critics, targeting the others’ supporters, in what could amount to crimes against humanity.

Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads for over a decade, following the Islamist group’s victory in 2006 parliamentary elections. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah and much of the international community refused to accept the result, leading to increased strife and a near-civil war that saw Hamas seize control of the coastal enclave.

The premier asserted that Israel would continue to have exclusive control of security in the West Bank in order to “keep the peace”, explaining that he was unconcerned with political designations for such a territory, essentially admitting that a Palestinian entity would not meet the real status of statehood.  

“Okay, it is what it is. You can give it any name you want: state minus; autonomy plus; autonomy plus plus. Sounds like a rating agency or something. But that's it – that's the truth,” Netanyahu said referring to a conversation that he had with the former Vice President Joe Biden.

“And this truth is shared much more widely across the political spectrum in Israel than people understand because we're not going to imperil the life of the state for a label or for an op-ed, a good op-ed for six hours not even in the New York Times," Netanyahu audaciously declared, stressing the importance of Israel’s maintaining a permanent military presence in the West Bank.

"West of the Jordan, Israel and Israel alone will be responsible for security, which means that it's not just a question of hot pursuit going into Palestinian areas, okay? It's also having the ability to be there all the time – that's why the West Bank is not Gaza.

Abbas’ spokesperson responded Wednesday evening, using Netanyahu’s statements as evidence that the Israeli government aims to perpetuate the current situation and postpone the advancement of a peace deal.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh contradicted the Israeli premier by saying that security would only come with an independent Palestinian state.

AP Photo/Amr Nabil

“There is no security without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders,” he said.

“The search for excuses to evade the benefits of the currency of peace and the resolutions of international legitimacy will only lead to more violence, tension, destruction and instability,” Rudeineh added.

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