Itongadol.- Israel is not interested in becoming a “bi-national country,” but must ensure that it can defend itself by itself against any threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for talks.
The two met for a working dinner on Thursday night in Jerusalem, but made no comments before their meeting.
Kerry, who arrived from Jordan for his fifth visit since March, was expected to travel back to Jordan on Friday for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli officials said Kerry may return to Israel either before Shabbat or on Saturday evening for a follow-up meeting with Netanyahu. The US Embassy announced that he planned a press conference in Amman on Saturday afternoon.
Kerry met with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Thursday afternoon before leaving for Israel. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, meanwhile, markedly refrained from giving any details at the daily State Department press conference of the substance of those talks, or on the content of the discussions Washington is conducting with Israeli or Palestinian officials regarding restarting negotiations.
Netanyahu, speaking at the annual state memorial service for Theodor Herzl, said before Kerry arrived that Israel wanted peace “because we want to live in peace.” But, he said, no one should “delude themselves into thinking that if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians it would erase the wild slander against the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu said that regardless of what Israel does, its name will still be blackened around the world and it will continue to be depicted as “rejecters of peace, as warmongers, as a dark country that aspires to conquer.”
He reiterated a theme he has repeated a number of times over the past few months: that anti-Semitism, the historic hatred of the Jews, has now been transferred into a hatred of the Jewish state.
He noted that Israel was continually on the bottom of a BBC survey asking people to name which countries have the most positive effects on the world.
“We are continually on the bottom of that list alongside Iran and it does not matter what we do,” he said. “It does not matter what we contribute. It does not matter, because we are not dealing in facts.” He added that this “will not change regardless of whether Israel is in the midst of a peace process,” and regardless of how much tikkun olam – “fixing the world” – Israel is engaged in.
“Peace is desirable in and of itself,” Netanyahu said, underlining that Israel did not pursue it to gain international legitimacy. “Peace is based on security; it is not based on goodwill and legitimacy as people think. It is based first and foremost on our ability to defend ourselves. Without security, without the army that Herzl called to establish, we cannot defend the peace; we cannot defend ourselves if the peace unravels.”
Netanyahu said most Israelis understand that security is a fundamental condition for both achieving and securing peace.
President Shimon Peres, meanwhile, took the opportunity at the Herzl ceremony to welcome Kerry and wish him success in his effort to “revive the process.”
“Peace is a moral foundation of Judaism; it is an existential need of the Jewish state,” Peres said.
“A binational state contradicts the vision of Herzl; it endangers the Jewish and democratic State of Israel. There is a chance to renew the peace process, and it is not to be missed.”