Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
He finally said it — in Hebrew — “shtai midinot l’shnai amim”, or, “two states for two peoples”.
Breaking a barrier that appeared to be as much psychological as political, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the phrase, while spelling out his conditions for Palestinian statehood, in his opening remarks at the weekly meeting of his cabinet on Sunday.
Under U.S. pressure, Netanyahu publicly endorsed for the first time, in a major policy speech on June 14, the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But in that Hebrew-language address he refrained from uttering what has become the mantra of U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace efforts — “two states for two peoples”.
Just a month earlier, briefing journalists in Washington on his White House talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Netanyahu made a point of heading off any suggestion he had bowed on the statehood issue.: “I did not say two states for two peoples,” he said.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has used the phrase in private talks with visiting foreign officials, a spokesman said. And in a June 23 interview with the mass-selling German Bild newspapaper, Netanyahu made clear that ”… on the question of whether we favour two states for two peoples, we say yes.”
Now he’s said the same in his native language to his own people — “We’ve achieved national consensus over the idea of two states for two people” – while hanging tough on his terms for statehood that included demlitarisation of a Palestinian state and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
(Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd L) gestures as he speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 5, 2009. Also pictured are (L-R) Minister for Regional Cooperation and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser and Minister in charge of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool)