‘Antagonistic’ Israeli settlements increase chances of Palestinian state – ex-foreign sec Rifkind

A building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, near Israel's controversial separation wall in the northern area of east Jerusalem (AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli
Ongoing Israeli encroachment in the occupied West Bank will increase the chances of an independent Palestinian state being created, former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said.

Speaking to the London Jewish Forum at a “Think Jewish” event, Sir Malcolm said if Benjamin Netanyahu acted “antagonistically” towards Israeli Arabs and “pushes settlements in a harsh way” then “it’s only a matter of time until Palestine is a state.”

“The Palestinian entity is not yet a viable state,” he said, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

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Rifkind had abstained during a House of Commons vote last October on the symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood.

He said he did not believe the time was right for the creation of an independent nation and that the territory did not yet meet the basic requirements of a state, as Palestine is split between Hamas and Fatah.

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Back then, he said: “I believe that the Israelis are totally unjustified in their settlement policy. But I must also say that the way in which the Israelis, having withdrawn from Gaza, have been subject to an ongoing attack by Hamas from within Gaza has clearly had a massive influence on Israeli public opinion.”

Rifkind added: “Symbolism sometimes has a purpose. It sometimes has a role. But I have to say you do not recognize a state which has not yet got the fundamental ingredients that a state requires if it's going to carry out its international functions and therefore, at the very least, I would respectfully suggest this motion is premature.”

Overall, MPs voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state alongside Israel. With a vote of 274 to 12, they backed the move “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

In 2012 the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to that of “non-member observer state,” in which 41 nations – including the UK – abstained.