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Israeli Deputy Defense Minister: Government 'Will Be Against' Any Palestinian State

Ali Gharib on an Israeli government official's denial that Netanyahu's government is interested in a two-state peace deal.

Benjamin Netanyahu constantly faces criticisms that he merely pays lip-service to the creation of a Palestinian state and won't take the steps necessary to actually get a deal. That view was reinforced at a recent Knesset debate about whether the government he leads officially supports a two-state deal, where a Jewish Home parliamentarian from the coalition's right wing plainly stated, "Two states for two peoples is not the government's official position." Today, it was a deputy minister from Netanyahu's own party who undermined his begrudging support for the two-state solution.

Danny Danon, who used to sit at farthest right reaches of the Likud until the group's merger with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, told the Times of Israel a majority of the governing coalition would act to block any deal that created a Palestinian state. "Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution,” the deputy defense minister said. “If you will bring it to a vote in the government—nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it—but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.” Likud-Beieinu and Jewish Home make up the two largest blocks in the government.

The rightward-lurch of the current government stands at odds with Netanyahu's 2009 endorsement at Bar-Ilan University of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, not to mention Netanyahu's many recent appearances glad-handing of the American Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry's frenzied travel schedule over the past months has been centered on relaunching moribund negotiations.

Another minister from Likud, Yuvan Steinitz, told the Times of Israel that Netanyahu "and his cabinet and the entire government are totally committed to his Bar-Ilan speech about [a] two state for two peoples solution," but that doesn't ring true. The Jewish Home party, which adamantly opposes a Palestinian state, holds ministerial posts for housing, industry and religious services.

Battles within Israel's frequently tenuous coalitions aren't anything new, but Danon's explicit dissension from Netanyahu's line clarifies things a bit. That doesn't mean it should come as a surprise. After a purge of Likud's few remaining (relative) liberals in primaries, the party was left with a list whose top-end—save Netanyahu himself—roundly and openly supported annexing much of the West Bank and, in some cases, even declaring the Gaza Strip Israeli territory. Members of the party—including those who now hold cabinet positions, such as Ze'ev Elkin—even campaigned for the January election as pro-annexation candidates.

That leaves Tzipi LIvni, who appears with each passing day to be little more than a fig leaf. "This is the coalition that was created, and frankly it is not the coalition that I wanted, and it was not, maybe, the coalition that the prime minister wanted. But this is what we have and we need to work with it," Livni told the Israeli online paper (note that "maybe"). Livni seems to be the only member of the government who doesn't need to be dragged kicking and screaming to some sort of deal with the Palestinians, but one wonders if, under these circumstances, any of the "work" she describes can actually get done.