Benjamin Netanyahu was slammed by political rivals this week after his party said previous support for a Palestinian state, which he declared at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, was “no longer relevant”.
An embarrassed prime minister denied reports that his re-election would keep Israel from ceding land to the Palestinians, but political rivals were quick to pounce.
On Monday Tzipi Livni, who led negotiations with the Palestinians last year, said the world had “lost basic trust” in Netanyahu, adding that if he could not be trusted on the two-state solution, he could not be trusted on Iran.
“He talks but he won’t evacuate, he talks but he will not agree – the world has lost basic trust in the prime minister and I say this regretfully,” she said. “When the Bar Ilan speech cannot be believed, then the speech on Iran cannot be believed either.”
Livni’s sharp criticism comes on the back of Netanyahu’s Washington visit, where he made an enemy of the White House by speaking to the US Congress about Iran against the wishes of President Obama and his team.
Yet while Netanyahu had hoped for good publicity from the visit, newspapers carried photos of crowds in Tel Aviv, where 25,000 people gathered calling for change.
“Israeli citizens are demanding a change of politics, a peace agreement,” said organiser Dror Ben Ami. “The current government has failed on social and economic fronts and has not improved security… The country has broken down.”
In a desperate bid to shore up right-wing support ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu’s Likud party issued a statement – attributed to him – strongly suggesting he no longer supported the idea of a demilitarised Palestinian state.
“Any territory that will be evacuated will be taken over by radical Islam and terrorist organisations supported by Iran,” it said. “Therefore, there will not be any withdrawals or concessions. The matter is simply irrelevant.”
Netanyahu’s office later denied that he had said this, which only added to a day of confusion, when an Israeli journalist said he had unearthed a “document of concessions” supposedly listing West Bank settlements that would be evacuated under any peace agreement with the Palestinians. This was also denied.