Two days after a dramatic Israeli election that all but secured a fourth term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader sat down with NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent (and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on msnbc) Andrea Mitchell for his first post-election interview. Netanyahu addressed where he stands on a Palestinian statehood and the prospect of an Iran deal.
On his comment that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch
On the eve of the Israeli election, Netanyahu turned heads when he promised that if reelected, he would prevent a Palestinian state. “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in an interview with the NRG news website, according to The Times of Israel.
He told Mitchell that he hasn’t changed his stance in six years, but that it’s the reality that has changed. With the Palestinian state teaming up with Hamas, Netanyahu said he sees a threat to the State of Israel. “I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a two-state solution,” he said, to which Mitchell replied, “you were elected on a mandate against a two-state solution. That’s how the White House is interpreting it.” Netanyahu said in order to achieve peace in Israel, Palestinians must abandon Hamas. Without that “commitment,” he said, a two-state solution is not obtainable.
On warning his supporters of a massive wave of Arab Israeli voters
Hours before the polls closed on Election Day, Netanyahu took to Facebook to warn Israeli voters of the ”droves” of Arab voters that could put the right-wing government in danger. The comments were lambasted by his opponents and some Israeli media as racist. Mitchell raised the question of bigotry in Netanyahu’s comments, to which he replied: “I’m very proud to be the prime minister of all Israelis. If you re-listen to what I said, I’m proud Israel is the one country in a broad radius where Arabs have free and fair elections.” Netnayahu added, “I was calling on our voters to come out. We got quite a few Arab voters.” In the end, Israeli Arabs turned out to the polls in unprecedented numbers, helping a new Arab party become the third largest party in Israel’s parliament.
On whether he’s lost Obama’s trust
Netanyahu’s trip to Washington in the weeks leading up to the Israeli election was deemed “destructive,” “inappropriate,” and unnecessary by members of the Obama administration, Democrats and traditional supporters of Israel. Netanyahu addressed Congress to lobby against the possibility of a deal between the United States and Iran, currently under negotiation, that would likely limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.
“I didn’t mean any disrespect or any attempt at partisanship,” Netanyahu told Mitchell when asked why Obama should trust him after he lobbied against the U.S. diplomatic effort. “I felt it my obligation to speak up,” he said, adding that the U.S. has no greater ally than Israel and touted a line of communication with Secretary of State John Kerry.
On his pals in Republican leadership
Netanyahu has enjoyed strong support from U.S. Republicans, a partisan divide that was brought into stark relief when House Speaker John Boehner invited the prime minister to come speak to Congress without running it by the Obama administration first. When Mitchell asked if he’s counting on Republicans in Congress to kill the deal, Netanyahu replied “I’m committed to people watching after Israel,” adding that he’s received “very good feedback” from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Following the speech, 47 U.S. Republican members wrote a letter to the Iranian government saying that a deal would ultimately be unraveled whether it’s signed or not when Obama leaves the White House – a move condemned by Democrats and some Republicans. Even Sen. John McCain said it may not have been the best way to handle the situation. Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow called the letter “deeply, deeply disturbing.” Earlier this month, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that most Americans – 71% – think a nuclear deal with Iran wouldn’t prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon.
On his message to Iran
Not one centrifuge. “We want peace with them, but they’ve been taken over by regime that wants [atomic weapons],” Netanyahu said. “That’s bad for everyone.” Previews of a deal between the U.S. and Iran say that Iran would be restricted from producing atomic weapons for 10 years. On Thursday, a senior U.S. Treasury official said that if no deal is reached, the U.S. will impose further sanctions.