AP — With the prime minister under fire internationally for his hard-line policies, a key partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is standing firmly behind him ahead of the March parliamentary elections — heralding what could be an even tougher stance toward the Palestinians if the two sit together in the next government.
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Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party — a lynchpin of Israel’s nationalist right that takes an even tougher line toward the Palestinians than Netanyahu’s Likud — told The Associated Press that the Palestinians should lower their expectations and forget about statehood.
“We are not going to give up more land. This approach has failed,” said Bennett, who is angling to become defense minister as part of the next coalition government if Netanyahu prevails in the March 17 vote. “Now, if it means that the world will penalize us, that is unfair but so be it.”
“I think the world right now is trying to twist Israel’s arm into committing a huge mistake that would damage our own future,” Bennett said.
While critics attack Netanyahu for resisting concessions to the Palestinians and being combative with the United States, Bennett insists the prime minister has not gone far enough. He said Netanyahu has embraced dovish policies by agreeing in principle to a Palestinian state, temporarily freezing West Bank settlement construction and releasing convicted Palestinian murderers in prisoner swaps.
Bennett defiantly rejects the premise that Israel is to blame for the failed peace talks and doesn’t hesitate to speak bluntly — the next government should build more settlements and solidify its control over territory sought by the Palestinians, he said.
“Israel needs to do what is right for it, what is right for its people, what is right for its long-term survival,” Bennett, currently Israel’s economy minister, said in the AP interview at his Jerusalem office.
“We have a problem in the Arab world, which is getting more and more radical. Throwing them (the Palestinians) pieces of Israel’s land and hoping that will satisfy the radical Islamist beast won’t do it.”