Netanyahu promises no Palestinian state if re-elected

Aron Heller
Associated Press

Jerusalem — In a frenzied last day of campaigning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state and vowed to keep building east Jerusalem settlements as he appealed to hard-line voters on the eve of Israel’s closely contested general election.

Netanyahu's remarks, in a video interview with the NRG website, marked a technical reversal of a 2009 speech in which he endorsed the principle of two states existing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

But in practice, the prime minister has long abandoned any talk of a two-state solution. The last of several rounds of negotiations with the Palestinians aiming to reach an agreement collapsed nearly a year ago.

The moderate opposition, meanwhile, announced a dramatic last-minute machination of its own, removing one of its two joint candidates for prime minister.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Netanyahu’s comments were “dangerous” and could plunge the region into violence.

Netanyahu, who has governed for the past six years and has long been the most dominant personality in Israeli politics, has watched his standing plummet in recent weeks.

Recent opinion polls show his Likud Party lagging behind Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union. Herzog, who has vowed to revive peace efforts with the Palestinians, repair ties with the U.S. and reduce the growing gaps between rich and poor, confidently predicted an “upheaval” was imminent.

Late Monday night, it was announced that Herzog’s main partner, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, had given up an agreement to rotate the prime minister post with him if their alliance wins. It was widely thought that the unusual arrangement was driving away voters.

Tuesday’s election caps an acrimonious three-month campaign that is widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu.

While his comments Monday appeared to be election rhetoric, they nonetheless put him further at odds with the international community, boding poorly for already strained relations with the U.S. and other key allies if he wins a third consecutive term.

As Netanyahu’s poll numbers have dropped in recent days, he has appeared increasingly desperate, stepping up his nationalistic rhetoric in a series of interviews to local media to appeal to his core base.

Los Angeles Times contributed.