Benjamin Netanyahu holds a map of the Middle East without Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a map of "The New Middle East" without Palestine during his September 22, 2023, address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Netanyahu Takes Palestinian State Off the Table, Vows Israeli Control From the Jordan River to the Sea

"So it's okay for Netanyahu to say 'from the river to the sea', but not for Palestinians?"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday informed the United States that there will be no independent Palestinian state after the current war on Gaza is over, and that Israel will control Palestine "from the river to the sea."

"For 30 years I have been very consistent. This conflict is not about the lack of a Palestinian state, but the existence of a Jewish state," Netanyahu—who has previously boasted about thwarting the so-called "two-state solution" favored by Washington—said during a nationally televised press conference.

"From every area we evacuate we have received terrible terror against us. It happened in southern Lebanon, it happened in Gaza, and also in Judea and Samaria," he continued, the final part a reference to the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Therefore, I clarify that in any arrangement in the future the state of Israel needs security control over all territory west of the Jordan River," he stressed. "This is what happens when you have sovereignty."

"This truth I say to our American friends—and I also stopped the attempt to impose on us a reality that will jeopardize us—a prime minister of Israel has to be able to say no, even to the best of friends," the prime minister added. "To say no when you need to and to say yes when you can."

The "from the river to the sea" mantra—a claim to all of historic Palestine from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west—is expressed in both the original charter of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the aspirational chants of Palestinians and their supporters around the world.

"So it's okay for Netanyahu to say 'from the river to the sea', but not for Palestinians?" quipped journalist Richard Medhurst following the press conference. "Gee, I wonder which of them has not just said it, but forced millions of people from their native homes for 75 years and just killed 24,000 people of them to achieve it."

Following Netanyahu's comments, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday that "there is no way to solve [the region's] long-term challenges to provide lasting security and there is no way to solve the short-term challenges of rebuilding Gaza and establishing governance in Gaza and providing security for Gaza without the establishment of a Palestinian state."

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres responded to Netanyahu's comments in a statement reiterating his stance that "the only way to stem the suffering" in the region is "an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza and a process that leads to sustained peace for Israelis and Palestinians, based on a two-state solution."

Unnamed sources have told reporters that U.S. frustration with Netanyahu's far-right government has been increasing along with the casualty count in Gaza—which Palestinian officials and international groups say is over 100,000, mostly innocent men, women, and children.

President Joe Biden has accused Israel of "indiscriminate bombing" of civilians in Gaza but continues to back Netanyahu's policy unconditionally and the U.S. has supplied Israel with billions of dollars in military aid and diplomatic support at the United Nations and beyond.

On Wednesday, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid filed a no-confidence motion against Netanyahu's far-right government over its inability to secure the release of the 136 Israeli and other hostages still held by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"This government cannot continue to exist," Lapid's Yesh Atid party said in a statement. "It is a failure that costs human lives and the future of the country."

Netanyahu has survived two previous no-confidence votes. He is also facing three criminal corruption cases, and opponents allege he is dragging out the war in an effort to evade justice.

Update: This piece has been updated to better reflect the exact wording of Netanyahu's statement, though the meaning has not changed.

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