A rising star in the Israeli cabinet has declared that the idea of a Palestinian state is dead, in a statement that will dismay the US secretary of state, John Kerry, whose mission to restart peace talks between the two sides is struggling to make headway.
Naftali Bennett, who was appointed Israel's economics and trade minister following a strong showing in January's election, told a conference of settlers in Jerusalem that Israel should urgently annex large tracts of the West Bank currently under its control.
Referring to the idea of a Palestinian state, Bennett said: "Never have so many people invested so much energy in something that is hopeless."
The challenge, he added, was "how do we move forward from here, knowing that a Palestinian state within Israel is not possible ... We have to move from solving the problem to living with the problem." Annexation of "Area C", the 62% of the West Bank under total Israeli control, should proceed "as quickly as possible".
Bennett said: "The most important thing in the land of Israel is to build, build, build. It's important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere.
"This land has been ours for 3,000 years. There was never a Palestinian state here and we were never occupiers. The house is ours and we are residents here, not the occupiers."
The trade minister's comments were swiftly attacked by the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who said Israel had "officially declared the death of the two-state solution". more