WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the case for a continued Israeli security presence in the West Bank even if his country reaches an accord with the Palestinians.
“Any peace we have is likely to be initially a cold peace,” Netanyahu said in an address delivered via satellite to the Saban Forum, an annual gathering in Washington of Israel and U.S. persons of influence.
A deal coming out of the current talks between Israel and the Palestinians must allow “Israel to defend itself by itself,” he said. “Those security arrangements must be based on Israel’s own forces.”
Netanyahu’s statement comported with a retreat in U.S. expectations of a final status agreement next year, made clear at the same forum over the weekend, where President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry each said that Israeli security concerns necessitated a continued Israeli presence in the West Bank during a transitional phase.
Palestinian negotiators have said that a continued Israeli security presence is a deal breaker, although they are open to an international security force.
Netanyahu pushed back again against claims by Obama, Kerry and others that new Iran sanctions would derail talks between the major powers and Iran aimed at ending Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
“We shouldn’t assume that more and tougher sanctions won’t lead to a better deal,” a specific repudiation of Obama’s claim over the weekend, although Netanyahu did not name Obama.
Netanyahu said a failure to neutralize Iran’s nuclear capability would upend not only the Israeli-Palestinian talks but also could unsettle Israel’s peace deals with Egypt and Jordan.
Netanyahu’s appearance was to have been in the form of an interview with the journalist Charlie Rose; instead he decided to give a short speech.
Netanyahu, as Obama did, affirmed that the two leaders have a strong and positive relationship.
“Sometimes we differ because we have these different perspectives, but we always share our views honestly sincerely and respectfully,” the Israeli leader said. “I don’t know if there are any other two leaders of the world today who speak more openly and more frequently on such matters.”