JERUSALEM - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set off an uproar in Israel on Sunday after warning that the country, through its continued West Bank occupation, will become a "binational state."
Kerry's words describe a scenario that would mark a failure of U.S. policy and end to Israel's existence as a country that is both Jewish and democratic. The U.S., the international community and many Israelis have endorsed the "two-state solution" - establishing a Palestinian state and ending Israel's control over millions of Palestinians in territories occupied in the 1967 war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that "Israel will not be a binational state" and blamed the Palestinians for the failure of peace efforts. "In order to have peace, the other side needs to decide that it wants peace as well," Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting.
But despite Netanyahu's pledges, Jewish settlement of the West Bank continues apace, while confusion over his true intentions grows by the day.
Meanwhile, Israel seems unable to stem a wave of stabbings and other attacks by Palestinian individuals, now in its third month, that has killed 19 Israelis and left over 100 Palestinians, most said by Israel to be attackers, dead.
On Sunday, police said a Palestinian stabbed several Israelis before he was shot and killed, the latest incident in more than two months of Palestinian attacks. Later in the day, police said, a Palestinian intentionally crashed his car into two young people walking on a sidewalk in Jerusalem, injuring them lightly before he got out of the vehicle brandishing a knife and stabbed an officer. A soldier who saw the incident as he stepped off a bus ran toward the attacker, opened fire and killed him, police said.
Israel says the current spate of violence is due to incitement by Palestinian leaders over a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Jews and Muslims, as well as videos encouraging violence spread on social media. Palestinians say it is rooted in frustration over years of failed talks and lack of hope of gaining statehood.
This situation has sharpened the country's half-century-old debate over the Palestinians. Opposition politicians, intellectuals, and retired military commanders are issuing increasingly strident warnings that never-ending violence awaits if Israel continues to occupy millions of angry Palestinians who cannot vote in its national elections.
"If Israel were the Titanic and the binational apartheid state its iceberg . . . then the collision with the iceberg has already occurred," wrote columnist Rogel Alpher in the Haaretz daily. "Without a diplomatic solution, we will continue to slowly sink into an existence of knifings, hatred and fear."