October 27, 2023 - 6:15pm

In an extended interview with UnHerd this week, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely was confronted with a historic statement in which she claimed that “between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state, only the state of Israel.” Despite referencing the rhyme back in 2015, when making the case for a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Hotovely maintained that “from the river to the sea” is a genocidal chant when used by pro-Palestine protesters. 

Recent weeks have seen hundreds of thousands of people across Europe march for a “free Palestine”. Some countries have taken a hard line on protests, with France attempting a total ban on pro-Palestine rallies and Berlin suggesting a ban on keffiyeh scarves in schools. Hotovely spoke to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers about the policing of speech and discussed whether pro-Palestinian protests on the streets of London are calling for the end of Israel — or perhaps something even more radical. 

Hotovely, who has been in her current role since 2020, has been outspoken in her support for a one-state solution and has strongly opposed the freeze on settlement construction. After the Ambassador stated that “from the river to the sea” is a genocidal chant, Sayers pointed out:

In an earlier interview you gave before you were Ambassador, and this is a direct quote, you say, ‘Between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state, only the state of Israel.’ How can you condemn people for chanting ‘between the river and the sea’ in favour of Palestine, when you say the opposite in favour of Israel?
- Freddie Sayers

Hotovely responded: 

What I’m saying, and what they’re saying are totally different things. They don’t think that Jews should exist. This is a genocide intention. […] I’m not saying ‘from the river to the sea’. I’m speaking about coexistence […] They’re speaking about genociding the Jewish people. Can you actually understand what a huge gap there is? What they’re saying means not even one Jew between the river and the sea. Israel was never speaking about no Arab presence. We have 20% Arabs in our country. They are a minority that used to have the third largest party in Israel. So we are proud of coexistence.
- Tzipi Hotovely

Met with the suggestion that protestors in the West are unlikely to be calling for genocide, and that it’s more probable that “free Palestine” means Arabs living in harmony with Jews in a country called Palestine, Hotovely denied that activists’ intentions tend to be benign:

If that were the case, they would chant for the ‘one state solution’, but that’s not what they’re saying. They’re saying, basically, Palestine will be free, and Palestine will be free from Jews. And this is really, really scary.
- Tzipi Hotovely