Saturday, June 20

The Anticipated Netanyahu Speech was a Damp Squid

There was great anticipation of the speech that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was to deliver. It was Netanyahu's antidote to President Obama's speech delivered at Cairo University.

Obama expressed his opposition to the building and expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and the US support for the two-state solution. Netanyahu decided not to clash with Obama on that issue and accepted grudgingly the two-state solution with severe limitations.

Obama had put the thumbscrews on Netanyahu. It is as if he said: "Accept the two-state solution or else bear the consequences". The result was a "hiccupping acceptance" with severe limitations ensuring that the two-state solution will never be accepted by the Palestinians. This means maintaining the status quo in true Netanyahu style.

It is significant to note that the venue chosen for his speech was Bar Ilan University - the institute of right wing ideology. In this right wing environment he felt confident. Most of his audience was Likud supporters and all he did was preach to the converted. He made a very Zionistic speech - a patriotic call - and an attempt to patch up his differences with the Obama Administration on the two-state solution and settlement expansion. At the same time he wanted to satisfy his right-wing coalition partners.

The limitations imposed on the Palestinians will set the clock back for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Netanyahu also stated that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Surely this is unnecessary! Is it not sufficient to recognize Israel's right to exist in security within recognized borders?

Israel is a state of all its citizens and demographically has a Jewish majority. It is a matter of semantics. The emphasis of Israel being recognized as a
Jewish state is a source of contention with the Palestinians as the innuendo is viewed by them as an attempt at "ethnic cleansing" to ensure that Israel will become free of Arabs. This is how the moderate Palestinian leadership thinks. The settlement expansion in the occupied territories somehow reinforces that view. After all, every meter of illegal settlement in the occupied territories means a meter less for the size of a future Palestinian state and thus to its viability. What is the point of emphasizing in true patriotic fashion the obvious? Is it an attempt at demagoguery so typical of the Zionist right wing in order to cloud the real issues so important for peace?
The speech received a lukewarm reception by President Obama. He stated that Netanyahu did not go far enough. The Palestinians and the Arab states rejected it outright. The US Administration's pressure on Netanyahu to get him to accept a two-state solution was partially successful. The severe limitations imposed on the establishment of a Palestinian State is so severe that with all due respect, it could never be achieved as it is unacceptable by the Palestinians.

There are those Israeli pundits who maintain that Israel is doing all the compromising while the Palestinians are giving nothing in return to end the conflict. The Palestinians feel Israel has occupied their lands and created the refugee problem. It goes back to 1948 and then again in June 1967. They therefore feel that an injustice has been done to them and they do not need to make compromises apart from carrying out their battle for an independent Palestinian state which is threatened by occupation and expansion of settlements on the West Bank.

A real security problem has to be dealt with in Israel. Israelis fear that a Palestinian state could become a reservoir for terror activity against Israel. The possibility of a Hamas take over as in the case of Gaza cannot be ruled out. Hamas is well known for its hard-line ideology against Israel. It refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and they do not wish to negotiate with Israel. A Hamas take over in the West Bank could become a nightmare for Israel and the Palestinians as well, judging what happened in Gaza. There is also the chance that Hezbollah and Iran would gain further influence in the West Bank as a result. These are genuine fears that cannot be overlooked. Iran and its Hezbollah ally could include Syria as well. This is another reason why Netanyahu is not prepared to cede any land to the Palestinians apart from traditional ideological reasons.

The right wing coalition partners are not even prepared to accept the two state solution. They believe that the solution to the conflict is the repatriation of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. They believe that Jordan is Palestine and that is where the solution must be found. It has nothing to do with Israel's security at all. Even if there was no terror threat, the right wing, which includes the religious Zionists, believes that they have every right to settle the West Bank, or Greater Israel in their eyes. This includes the building of settlements, stealing Palestinian lands and destroying Palestinian property wherever they can for settlement activity. Even by the wildest stretch of the imagination this has nothing to do with the security of Israel.
The only way to achieve peace with security for both Israel and the Palestinians is to discuss all issues openly. There should not be talk of a limited, demilitarized Palestinian state as a precondition. The solution to the refugee problem, division of Jerusalem into a Palestinian and an Israeli canton so that it could be considered the capital of both Israel and Palestine taking into consideration the population concentration there. Of course there should be cessation of violence on both sides as well as recognition of both sides to each others right to exist in security, peace and dignity.

There was no hint of even discussing these issues in Netanyahu's speech. This is what makes his speech manipulative, insincere and a ploy to satisfy his right wing coalition partners.

Netanyahu was hoping that the violence in Iran because of severe election fraud and its threat to the notorious Ahmadinajad leadership could ease US pressure on Israel. It remains to be seen if this will be a factor. To date this does not appear to be the case.

None of their business

Netanyahu demands that
The Palestinians
Recognize Israel as
The “State of the Jewish People”.

In Oslo, the Palestinians
Have already recognized
The sovereign State of Israel.
All other definitions
Are our own affair.

Until this very day
We have not succeeded
Even to decide
Who is a Jew.
How does that concern
The Palestinians?

Gush Shalom

Ad in Haaretz, June 19, 2009

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