There has been yet another setback to the formation of an official Palestinian state in the form of Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's recent comment that the process has come to a "dead end." While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly distanced himself from the comments, the question of whether Netanyahu is actually committed to the idea of a two-state solution still remains.
At a settler's conference, Bennett stated that "The idea that a Palestinian state will be founded within the Land of Israel has reached a dead-end," going on to say that "Never, in the history of Israel, have so many people put so much energy into something so pointless."
Quickly after Bennett's words, Netanyahu issued a statement that emphasized his role as the prime minister and clarifying that the prime minister shapes foreign policy. Just last week, Netanyahu had to deal with internal discourse in the Israeli government when Deputy Minister of Defence Danny Danon spoke out against the two-state process in the wake of settlement spike reports.
Internationally, the formation of a Palestinian state has gathered more support in recent years, putting Netanyahu in a tough spot for statesmanship in the region. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed to open up talks again after the past attempts fell through in 2010. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton, in an address to the Israeli people, proclaimed that there is no alternative to the Palestinian state. Clinton cited the fact that the Palestinian birth rate is outpacing the birth rate of Jews in the occupied territories.
Netanyahu shouldn't really be surprised by Bennett's words, though. It's no secret that many in Israel don't believe that a Palestinian state should be formed. Israel gained the territories in the 1967 war. Also, in a theological sense, many see this as Israel's rightful land. The conservative comments from government officials are comments on policy decisions and opinions that Netanyahu must be aware of, let alone the opinion of many of his citizens.
There may even be a chance that Netanyahu believes these opinions himself. If a Palestinian state is formed, it will be out of reluctance and disgruntled pressure from the international community. The direction of the peace process seems to be drifting away from state formation on an incident-to-incident basis. Whether Netanyahu believes the same sentiment that Bennett and others believe, his public face seems to have little impact on the process.
The extent of cooperation and willingness won't be truly seen until Kerry actually gets all parties involved to sit down. It remains to be seen whether Kerry can succeed in doing this. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat responded to Bennett by stating that Israel had "officially declared the death of the two-state solution." With the string of settlements and public statements continuing, the formation of the Palestinian state won’t be in the near future.