In Hebrew, Netanyahu Retracts Comments on Unilateral Withdrawal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is used to admonish Mahmoud Abbas for saying one thing in English, but another thing in Arabic.

But it seems that for Pennsylvania-raised Netanyahu, a statement in English is non-binding in Hebrew and vice versa on diplomatic affairs.

On Tuesday, during an appearance at the Center for American Progress, Netanyahu, for the first time, raised the possibility of unilateral action in securing Israel’s borders with the Palestinian territories.

“Unilateralism, I suppose that is possible, but it would have to meet Israeli security criteria,” the Prime Minister said. “It would require a broader international understanding than exists now.”

David Makovsky, the Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who asked the question, told the Forward afterward: “He opened the door to some sort of unilateral movement. It’s the first time he’s opened that door. Now I just hope it stays open.”

The comments caught the Israeli right and his coalition partners by surprise. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said raising the possibility sends a dangerous message to the Palestinians that terror pays off. “If terrorism pays, terrorism will increase,” Bennett said on Wednesday. “Unilaterally giving land to Arabs is always a grave mistake. Talking about it at the height of a wave of terrorism sends the opposite message of what we need to send. The enemy needs to be punished for terrorism and not be given a prize for murdering Jews.”

Later in the day, The Likud Party spokesman sent out a statement – in Hebrew – that “Netanyahu was not talking about unilateral withdrawal, rather, he was talking about the possibility of unilateral steps that could specifically strengthen Israel’s national and security interests in facing terrorism. The interpretation of what the prime minister said yesterday in the US is wrong: Prime Minister Netanyahu will not evacuate and will not uproot settlements. We will not repeat that mistake.” (Translation via The Jerusalem Post)

The clarification was also posted on Netanyahu’s Facebook page and personal Twitter handle. But unlike previous statements, usually sent out at the same time, the retraction was not translated into English.


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