JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel will maintain security control over all of the West Bank, with or without a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the West Bank, Netanyahu said Israel seeks "true peace" with its neighbors but all has to ensure its own security.
"For that reason, in any agreement, and even without an agreement, we will maintain security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River," he said.
Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in six days of fighting in June 1967, capturing the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria.
The Palestinians seek a future state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians reject any Israeli military presence in their future state, while Israel considers some form of military presence in the West Bank essential for its national security.
Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt as part of a landmark 1979 peace agreement. In 2005, it withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza, which is now controlled by the Hamas militant group.
The latest round of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, under the auspices of former Secretary of State John Kerry, broke down in April 2014. Since taking office earlier this year, President Donald Trump has pushed to kick start peace talks. He visited Israel and the West Bank last month during his first trip abroad as part of his efforts to bring about "the ultimate deal" between the two sides. Trump, however, has given few hints on how he plans to accomplish what a string of predecessors has failed to do.
Despite unprecedented American military aid, Netanyahu said the main lesson from the 1967 war is that Israel cannot rely on its allies for its defense.
"We will never place our fates in the hands of others," he said. "We respect our allies, foremost our big friend the United States, whose support we greatly appreciate. But in the moment of truth, Israel must be prepared and capable to deliver a serious, even deadly blow to anyone who wants to harm it."