JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisted Sunday that his country is not heading toward becoming a binational state, rejecting a warning to that effect by Secretary of State John Kerry.
At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, ‘‘Israel will not be a binational state, but in order to have peace, the other side needs to decide that it wants peace as well.’’
Kerry had warned Saturday about the dangers of the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority. He told a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington that if that were to happen, Israel would have to assume full governance of the West Bank, potentially leading to a one-state solution that would endanger Israel’s future.
Kerry described a prospect that would mark a failure of American policy and end to Israel’s existence as a country that is both Jewish and democratic.
The United States, 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.
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 more than 100 Palestinians — most said by Israel to be attackers — dead.
The 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.’’
Ever since Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, the question of the territories’ fate has hung in the air.
Israel’s left wing has favored a pullout from most of the areas, hoping this will bring Israel recognition and peace in the region. But over two decades of failed peace talks have convinced many that a deal is not possible.
The left still favors a pullout, but the rationale has shifted to something more like nationalism: without a pullout, Israel would no longer be a Jewish-majority democracy because half of its population in effect would be Palestinians, most of them without true democratic rights.
That’s because Israel proper — the area defined by 1949 cease-fire lines that ended the war over Israel’s establishment — has roughly 6.3 million Jews and 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel. Adding the West Bank and Gaza, demographers believe, would make the Arab and Jewish populations essentially equal.
A pullout from the West Bank is complicated by the presence of Jewish settlers, numbering 400,000 and growing. Eventually the situation may become irreversible, with the Palestinians abandoning efforts to set up their own state and instead demanding voting rights as citizens of a single ‘‘binational’’ state.
In a separate development Sunday, police said a Palestinian stabbed several Israelis in Jerusalem before he was shot and killed by a soldier, the latest incident in more than two months of Palestinian attacks.