The headlines of Israel's daily newspapers on Monday screamed the news: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to leave Jews behind inside the borders of a future Palestinian state.
In truth, Netanyahu himself made no such proposal, but an aide in the prime minister's office told reporters that the Israeli premier saw no reason that a future Palestinian state shouldn't include Jewish citizens.
That revelation fits with Netanyahu's speech last week in Davos, Switzerland, in which he suggested he had no intention of uprooting Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria.
However, those Jews could eventually find themselves no longer living under Israeli sovereignty.
As expected, the Palestinian Authority reacted with outrage to the reports. Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Associated Press that not a single "settler" could be left behind inside the borders of a Palestinian state.
Erekat reiterated Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' position that "Palestine" will have no Jewish citizens.
According to Israeli officials, the idea behind leaking the proposal was to expose the Palestinian Authority's hypocritical nature. Abbas insists Jews must not be permitted to live in a Palestinian state, but at the same time demands that Israel open its gates to millions more Arab citizens.
One government official told Voice of Israel Radio that "nothing reveals more the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to reach a settlement with Israel than their extreme and reckless response to an unofficial publication."
And so, Netanyahu's office was irked when Economy Minister Naftali Bennett interjected himself into the debate by calling into question the prime minister's commitment to the Zionist ideal.
"The idea that Jewish communities will live under Palestinian sovereignty...is a very grave matter, and it reflects a panicked loss of values," said Bennett. "2,000 years of longing for the Land of Israel did not transpire so that we could live under Abbass' rule."
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon added that anyone who thinks Jews can realistically remain living in a future Palestinian state should "visit Gaza today and understand the meaning of 'tolerance' in the Middle East."
Former Palestinian Authority Minister Ashraf al-Ajrami later told Israel's Army Radio that the Abbas regime was not necessarily opposed to "a few thousand" Jews remaining in a Palestinian state, but said all Jewish communities would have to be dismantled, and the remaining Jews would have to become "Palestinians."
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