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Prime Minister Netanyahu Backtracks On Palestinian State Comments


Israel's prime minister now insists he never meant to reject the idea of a Palestinian state. As he courted right-wing voters in the final days of his heated reelection campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This infuriated White House officials who back the two-state solution. President Obama reaffirmed that in a call with Netanyahu today.


This afternoon, Netanyahu told NPR's Steve Inskeep he does believe in the two-state concept, but he insists that the concept is not, quote, "relevant right now" because it would still be too dangerous for Israel to end its military occupation.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The dramatic changes that have occurred in the last few years in the region has brought the rise of militant Islam in any territory that is being vacated. By the way, that's true of Iraq and Syria with ISIS as it's true of us in Gaza. We vacated and we got - we didn't get peace. We got, in fact, an Iranian-backed terrorist enclave that is using the territory for launching pads against us. I don't want a one-state solution, but I certainly don't want a zero-state solution - a no state solution where Israel's very existence would be jeopardized. And that's what the people of Israel overwhelmingly elected me to do.

BLOCK: That's Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. Steve also asked about other campaign remarks Netanyahu made apparently aimed at driving a wedge between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.

GONYEA: Tune in for his answer and the full interview tomorrow on Morning Edition. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.