Meet the Press   |  September 25, 2011

Is two-state solution viable?

Benjamin Netanyahu: “I don’t want a peace process, I want peace results.” The prime minister says Israel’s ideal is for the Palestinian people to have their own state to govern, but the Palestinian leadership continues to walk away from peace talks

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you a bottom line question. There is no peace process yet, as we've talked about. What if the consequence of this failure in the United Nations ends up with the Palestinian Authority simply dissolving? Doesn't Israel then become a minority leadership over a majority population not consistent with democracy?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We don't want that. We -- I, I want them to simply sit down and negotiate a peace with us. I, I want them -- I don't want them as -- the Palestinians to be incorporated into Israel either as citizens or as subjects, I mean, it doesn't work. I say that to my colleagues, by the way, in the internal Cabinet meetings , I say, "Look, I want to be very clear about what I want." I just -- I don't want a peace process , I want a peace result.

MR. GREGORY: But I know what you want . But what if this happens, what if the P.A. gets dissolved?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, it's not our choice. I think, I think the choice is that they have their own independent state which recognizes our ancestral connections to this land, but also recognize the fact that we have unique security requirements because we're a country that could conceivably be the width of Manhattan , which is kind of hard to defend in a tough neighborhood. If we have their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the security requirements, there's no reason that we won't have peace . And that's what I'm working for. But the choices there -- I can't...

MR. GREGORY: Right. But, but...

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: ...I can't -- you know, President Abbas has to turn to his people and do what I did -- and it's tough facing your constituency, it's tough addressing your base -- and say, "You know, it's over. I recognize a Jewish state , Israel is here to stay. It's not just a fact that it's here today, gone tomorrow. It's going to be here forever."

MR. GREGORY: But let me pick up on that point.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: And that's the peace that we're going to make.

MR. GREGORY: As you said in your state , President Abbas referred to the crime of Israel being 1948 , 1967 .

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Oh.

MR. GREGORY: Isn't it quite clear that the Palestinians will never accept Israel as a Jewish homeland ? Isn't -- do you fear that the two- state solution is no longer viable?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You know, I was so disappointed to hear him say that because he was, he was going back, I was trying to move forward. I said, "Listen, let's, let's talk." You know, I have deep, deep connections to this land, the land of Israel , the land of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob . Jacob was the father of Benjamin . That's my namesake. Four thousand years we've been connected to this land. But I recognize there's another people living there. You know, let's sit down and work out a solution. Then comes President...

MR. GREGORY: Prime Minister, my question...

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: ...then comes President Abbas ...

MR. GREGORY: ...is the two- state solution alive?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, you tell me. Now, then President Abbas comes in, he says, "This land has been, you know, sacred for, for Muslims and Christians for 2,000 years." Hello! You know, "We've been around there. Two thousand years. I mean, Jesus came from a certain place, you know, from -- there's this Bible thing which precedes it. What is this? Why can't you recognize our history? Why can't you recognize the Jewish connection to the Jewish land? And why can't we work out -- recognize the past, seize the future?" And I 'm willing to do that. And I gave a speech -- and you heard my speech, it was -- look, I wouldn't say it was a softy speech, it was a tough speech, but it was conciliatory. It said to him, "Listen, here's my hand." Right hand. "Here's my hand. Reach out to it, grasp it. Let's make peace ." And that remains -- you know, if, if you ask me what's the main thing, the simple thing? If you strip away everything and all the arguments, the fact is, David , you can tell me now, you can ask me a question, are you willing to sit here, change your plans, stay in New York another day and have President Abbas come here and start peace negotiations even right now on the, on the Sunday show? Well, in the afternoon, take him some time to reach here. The answer is yes. I would do it.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you a final point.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: And he would not do it.

MR. GREGORY: Prime...

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: And that, that remains the issue. So if we want to get a two- state solution, it's his decision.

MR. GREGORY: Final point.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Because from my point of view , we can get it with peace and with security.

MR. GREGORY: Former President Clinton has been critical of you and your approach, and he said the following to foreign policy this week. I think you're familiar with that, I'll put it up on the screen. " Bill Clinton affirmed that the United States should veto the Palestinian resolution at the United Nations Security Council for member- state status because the Israelis need security guarantees before agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state . But the Netanyahu government has moved away from the consensus for peace , making a final agreement more difficult, Clinton said. He said, ' That's what happened. Every American needs to know this. That's how we got to where we are,' Clinton said. 'The real cynics believe that the Netanyahu government's continued call for negotiations over borders and such means that he's just not going to give up the West Bank .'"

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You know, I regretfully, regretfully and respectfully disagree with the -- with former President Clinton . He should know more than anyone else that in the peace conference that he presided in Camp David in 2000 with Arafat and former Prime Minister Barak , it was the Palestinian side who walked away from his own parameters. And in 2008 , President Bush can tell you how the Palestinian side, led by President Abbas walked away, just would not close in on another prime minister's suggestions. And in the two and a half years since then, anybody conversant with the facts knows that I made these offers again and again, called for two states for two people's, froze the settlements. Nobody did that ever for nearly a year. They didn't come, they don't want to come, and they go around to the U.N. So I disagree with that. But...

MR. GREGORY: His premise is that the West Bank would never be given up, you say that's not true.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: No, we, we could arrive in an, in an arrangement that takes care of Israel 's security needs and gives the Palestinians a life of dignity for themselves, but they have to have leaders who are prepared to do it. And you know what, I hope they do, not only for our sake, for their sake, too.