Bibi’s slightly-anticipated speech to the Israeli public in response to Obama’s Cairo speech surprised in a few minor ways. But it didn’t surprise much overall and ended up being essentially a non-starter. The biggest news is that Bibi has finally managed to utter the T-word: two-state solution. But that’s with so many caveats that the concept becomes virtually meaningless.
The problem isn’t the demand that it be demilitarized. That’s probably workable as long as their are international monitors to protect Palestinian borders. The real problem is Bibi’s foolhardy demand that Jerusalem remain “undivided.” So where would you put the capital of a putative Palestinian state? In Ramallah? Please. Would Bibi agree to housing Israel’s capital in Ashdod or Pardes Hana?
The other non-starter in the speech was his clinging to the notion of “natural growth” being permitted in the settlements. That, of course, leaves a hole big enough for a Mack truck to drive through. Since 1993 there has been a virtual settlement freeze throughout the West Bank and yet population has grown from 111,000 just after Oslo to nearly 300,000 now (and that’s excluding Jerusalem which contains about another 100,000 over the Green line Jewish residents).
Netanyahu also laid down a marker for future negotiations in which he put the U.S. on notice that he would reject any demand for settlement withdrawals:
Israel would not accept any situation in which it was forced to exist beside a terrorist state. Every withdrawal from settlement territories would contribute to such terror, said Netanyahu.
Yet another non-starter demand is that the Palestinians essentially sing Hatikvah on bended knee:
The prime minister also said that Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state, and cited the root of the regional conflict to “even moderate” Palestinian elements’ refusal to do so.
“When Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, we will be ready for a true final settlement,” the prime minister said.
We should remember that no such demands were made of the PLO before the two sides negotiated & recognized each other. So Bibi’s new condition is nothing more than a wrench introduced into the works to wreck the plumbing of a potential agreement.
Bibi also rejected the Right of Return, even the mild formulation of it offered in the Geneva Accords:
He emphasized that the Jewish people have been linked to the land of Israel for over 3,000 years and ruled out the option of granting Palestinians refugees the right to settle within Israeli borders.
Someone will have to explain to me why a Jewish link to the land of Israel precludes an Arab link to it as well. Clearly, one doesn’t negate the other except in the mind of Jewish/Israeli nationalist/rightists.
And Hamas? Fuhgedabodit:
Netanyahu said that Israel would not negotiate with terrorist who wish to destroy it, and said that Palestinians must choose between path of peace and Hamas.
What’s also laughable here is this statement from Bibi:
“I call on you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority: Let us begin peace negotiations immediately, without preconditions.”
So what preconditions HAS he demanded? Undivided Jerusalem, natural settlement growth, recognition of the Jewish state, no to Hamas, no to Right of Return. If that’s what he calls “without preconditions” then what would he call conditioned negotiations?
Some of my readers might argue that he was calling for negotiations at which these issues could be discussed. Well, what use would that be. He’s said that these are non-negotiable. That’s what I call a precondition.
This speech was literally a no-brainer and a non-starter.
Palestinians, with a viable state that they agree to, and in control of forces within, would have no reason to be “terrorists”. This is a risk- but considering the alternative, worth taking.
I agree that Netanyahu’s speech is full of pre-conditions but regarding this one in particular- it is interesting that it can be taken two ways or both: Every withdrawal will encourage more violence to get further withdrawals ( as per Gaza) OR that the settlements themselves are there as a buffer ( first line of defense)- which is an old excuse. I don’t think people move there for this reason, to defend Israel. In any case this is a blatant excuse as has been.
Regarding Jerusalem it is possible to have an undivided Jerusalem as the capitol of both Israel and a Palestinian state. To get there from here would be quite an achievement. I’d like to see it.
Regarding disarmament- I don’t see how any self-respecting Palestinian could agree to no way to protect itself from Israel or anyone else. Fearful israeli’s seem to think only in one direction. This implies at least one trustworthy 3rd party in the middle for awhile, or some mutual deterrence.
There were some positive aspects to this speech but anyone serious about making progress has to see this as almost back to the beginning and and uphill climb from there. This does represent a more softened hard line from the right, if it is representative and it brings along the extremists. It’s the hard liners that need to come along on this. This is why many feel this is hopeless b/c a softened hard line from the Palestinian side may still be far away from a meeting place.
My headline would be: “Obama shoots, Netanyahu dances”- I think it’s all about deterrence of Obama and marking time with words- keeping some “status quo” going, while imagining Israel has and will keep the upper hand.
It looks like Bibi is picking up where he left off in the Wye River negotiations. Now he has decided to be magnanimous and give the Palestinians full control of Area B and some additional slices of Area C. That seems to be his thinking when he says “state”, he really means autonomy.
Arie Brand says
Who was he trying to fool with this bit about having talks without preconditions while, at the same time, coming up with a number of them ?
It of course allows hasbarites to come up with isolated quotes.
What sounds more reasonable than having talks without preconditions?
What he meant of course is that the Arab states shouldn’t have any preconditions. Only Israel is entitled to them.
Talks with the Arab states would, moreover, imply a measure of recognition and normalization by those states without having to offer a quid pro quo (i.e. withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 border).
And if they refuse to talk they can be made to look unreasonable in American eyes.
A beautiful but threadbare trick – as Avnery pointed out years ago.
Thanks for the post, Richard. It was spot on. Netanyahu’s speech was an absolute non-starter. I just saw this:
In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama welcomed the speech as an important step forward.
“The President is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples,” Mr. Gibbs said. “He believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel’s security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a viable state.”
I cannot believe that President Obama was pleased with this farce. One can only hope that he moves quickly and strongly to challenge the Prime Minister’s old, tired, and condescending ideas.
The ideas that Netanyahu presented represent a solid national consensus. Don’t forget that Barak and the Labor Party joined the government on this basis.
Richard Silverstein says
Is that why a Dahaf poll showed that fully 56% of Israelis support their country agreeing to Obama’s definition of a FULL settlement freeze?? Seems to me THAT is the national consensus. In addition, a Jerusalem Post poll shows that a majority of Israelis support allowing Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem to come under Palestinian sovereignty. So much for YOUR national consensus, which is actually a RIGHTIST consensus.
Bernard Avishai’s analysis of last week’s poll results don’t indicate what you are saying. See
See the column “Doing the Numbers: Obama’s Window”
This was an excellent speech, I saw it live. Netanyahu at his best (and I’m not a big fan of Netanyahu, if you believe me). I suggest everyone read the full transcript that you can get to through HaAretz. Two things they said on Israeli news 1. Benny Begin was consulted beforehand and said, that though he doesn’t agree with the content, he won’t lead a rebellion in the Likud. 2) Some members of Kadima are saying that it’s time to crawl back to the Likud (so what’s new).
A national consensus – of the Jewish population.
If Americans began colonizing Iraq, using Israeli logic (we won the war/we are the Chosen people (Manifest Destiny)/security security security/radical Islamists Terrorists Florists, then it would be no more morally corrupt and wrong.
The only reason this is happening is because it’s exactly what the US wants. Israel will always be the imperial outpost of the Western powers (mainly the US of course) – and nothing more.
Homeland for the Jews? Yea, but you stole it from the indigenous population.
Haven’t DNA analysis shown that the Palestinian Arabs are much more closely related to the ancient Israelites anyways?
This is just plain simple volkish nationalism. No different from German nationalism.
Only the Jews can get away with this crime because they can huckster the Holocaust and cry antisemitism. It doesn’t help that there is collusion between the MIC/American foreign policy goals/identity politics of the Jewish community either.
The Arabs are collectively f**ked.
At least the Zionists can guarantee their cult that Jews will be eternally hated and thus, Zionism will always be relevant.
Richard Silverstein says
No, it hasn’t.
What’s your response to Arie’s post? I heard similar things.
Arie Brand says
On genetic tests the Wiki says inter alia:
“Results of a DNA study by geneticist Ariella Oppenheim appears to match historical accounts that Arab Israelis and Palestinians, together as the one same population, represent modern “descendants of a core population that lived in the area since prehistoric times”, albeit religiously first Christianized then largely Islamized, and all eventually culturally Arabized. Referring to those of the Muslim faith more specifically, it reaffirmed that Palestinian “Muslim Arabs are descended from Christians and Jews who lived in the southern Levant, a region that includes Israel, Sinai and part of Jordan.” …
While both the Palestinians and the world’s distinct Jewish populations have mixed with invading and host populations respectively, Oppenheim’s team found “that Jews have mixed more with other populations, which makes sense because they were more likely to leave the Levant.”.
Since, according to this bit of research, Jews have mixed more with host populations (not found in ancient Palestine) it follows that the Palestinians show closer similarity to the original population of Palestine.
Interesting speech. I’m not sure what to make of Bibi’s take on history but it would seem that even with Israel as powerful as it is (militarily and with the US’s support) there is still a need to play the victim card.
What stood out to me in the transcript of Bibi’s speech is:
“Why has this conflict continued for more than sixty years What is the root of the conflict? The root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognise the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland. In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution.”
Seems like Bibi is blaming the Arab world and the Palestinians for Israel’s intentional failure: achieve peace with its neighbours – Palestinians included.
“The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.”
Was a Jewish state in, say, Wisconsin proposed that the Arabs rejected it?
“Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.” In other words: those who think Arab hostility towards Israel is a product of the the continued occupation are confused because Arabs are hostile to a Jewish state any time, any where.
Finally, I have always wondered about one key aspect of the Jewish state: it’s Jewishness. Now, if what I’m about to say offends anybody then please forgive me. In his speech, Bibi stated: “A fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” Jews believe their biblical right to Israel is divine. If that is the case then one must agree that if Jews have ratified the bit in the bible that says Israel is theirs then they must also ratify the bible as a whole. This is simply not the case when it comes to Israel. For example, we saw on Friday, in Tel Aviv, five gay couples marry (under Jewish or Israeli law, it’s unclear and irrelevant because as a self-proclaimed Jewish state Jewish and Israeli law should be one):
What does the Jewish bible say about this and Israel’s current apartheid policy towards the Palestinians? If the bible permits it then Israel really is a Jewish state. If it does not, well then, Israel is no more a Jewish state than, say, Pakistan.
The next time Bibi lays this prerequisite for peace on the table, Arabs and Palestinians should request that Bibi demonstrate that Israel is a Jewish state.
Read this article by Robert Malley and Mohammed Agha which points out the Palestinians are not interested in a state, at least for the time being: (don’t worry, they are not “pro-Israel” and “Hasbaraniks”….Also note what they say about the settlers).
Right, the Palestinians don’t want a state. Then what do they want? The article states:
“For Palestinians, the most primal demands relate to addressing and redressing a historical experience of dispossession, expulsion, dispersal, massacres, occupation, discrimination, denial of dignity, persistent killing off of their leaders, and the relentless fracturing of their national polity.”
Sounds exactly like what Zionists want. The world recognises the Zionist/Jewish demand of addressing and redressing a historical experience of dispossession, expulsion, dispersal, massacres, etc., etc., as warranted, but what will it take before people like bar_kochba132 recognise that Palestinian demands for the same may actually be warranted also?
Looking at the situation in Gaza, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for any human being to argue and believe that Gazans are more than happy to maintain the status quo. Nobody wants to live like that – not even an Arab, believe it or not.
Philip Weiss recently returned from there. Read what he has to say about it here:
It is not that Palestinians are not interested in a state, it is becoming more and more evident that Israel is not interested in a Palestinian state.
Peter H says
I disagree with you on Bibi’s demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized. I don’t find it acceptable that Israel is allowed to have one of the most powerful militaries in the world while Palestinians would be prohibited from having even a basic means of self-defense, not to mention control over their own airspace or even their own foreign relations (“The Palestinians cannot make military treaties”) – all the fundamental attributes of sovereignty. What Netanyahu wants is not a true 2-state solution -which requires equality between both sides – but a neo-colonial arrangement where one state controls the land, borders & resources of another people.
Peter H: You are right.
“We should remember that no such demands were made of the PLO before the two sides negotiated & recognized each other.”
Remind me, how well did that work out?
RE: “sing Hatikvah on bended knee”
MY COMMENT: LOL!
RE: “BIBI’S SPEECH A NON-STARTER”
FROM TODD GITLIN @ TPM:
(excerpt) The American media, that herd of independent minds, give Netanyahu the headlines he wanted: “For the first time, Netanyahu accepts limited Palestinian state” (LAT); “Netanyahu Backs Unarmed Palestinian State” (WSJ); “Israeli Prime Minister Backs Palestinian State” (WP); “Israel PM calls for demilitarized Palestinian state” (CNN); and better, “Israeli Premier Backs State for Palestinians, With Caveats” (NYT)….
…Some European headlines are graver and less gullible. The Times of London: “Netanyahu defies Obama with hardline speech”; Le Monde: “Netanyahu poses his conditions for the existence of a Palestinian state”; but the Telegraph lines up with American coverage: “Netanyahu backs creation of Palestinian ‘state.'”…
ENTIRE POST – http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/06/14/media_netanyahu_is_a_mensch/?ref=fpd
I love how the PA has objected to Netanyahu’s rejection of a Palestinian “right of return,” saying this would prevent peace!
Then dont you just love how Palestinians threaten to start another war.
Does anyone notice, any time the Arabs dont get their way, they always threaten violence.
Netanyahu should be commended. He made it very clear Israel is not becoming an Arab state. The Arabs are freaking out over this.
They were so used to Olmert who caved into all their demands.
Richard, If your concerned about Jerusalem you would respond to Palestinian lies.
[comment edited for violation of comment rules]
Richard Silverstein says
Does anyone notice any time Israel doesn’t get its way it always threatens violence??
Nomi: READ my comment rules. Your comment above violates several. If you post another comment that violates the rules your privileges here will be in danger.
I do not publish or respond to the lies, distortions or smears of MEMRI, CAMERA, NGO Monitor, Palestine Media Watch, or whatever group JPost is highlighting in your article. The purpose of this blog is not to get into a pissing match with you or JPost or any of these propaganda outfits. Nice try, but I’m not biting.
As usual, you dismissed my observation that Netanyahu has a solid national consensus behind him. Well, look at this from Ha’aretz:
Richard, you have to understand…your views are on the very fringes of Israeli public opinion. You are to the left of MERETZ. I would say the only party that espouses views like yours is HADASH. Don’t forget that MERETZ shrunk to 3 seats in the last election. The original “peace camp”, i.e. Labor and MERETZ is almost totally discredited in Israel. They had 56 seats in the Knesset when they made the Oslo Agreements. Today they have 16. The Right , and by that I mean parties that support Jewish settlement in Judea/Samaria and a tough line on negotiations with the Palestinians has a solid majority in the Knesset. This is the reality of the situation.
bar_kochba132, the reality is, it doesn’t matter who the Israeli PM is.
The problem is not Netanyahu, cause the previous Olmert goverment was very left wing when it came to concessions.
You can read about it here.
Abbas was offered 97% of the West Bank, 3% of Israel, division of Jerusalem and Olmert insanely would allow in thousands of Palestinians to Israel.
Abbas rejected Olmert.
Olmert wanted desperately to end the conflict.
Which proves to any sain person what the problem is.
Its called Palestinian Rejectionism.
Abbas is no different then Arafat.
They both want 2 Palestinian states. There own state and to make Israel a Pal state.
I would also point out. If it was the other way around and the Arabs won a war verse Israel and took over Israel.
Do you honestly think any Arab would give any land to Jews.
All you have to do is look at the Kurds to understand what i’m talking about.
I truly think this Jewish left wing guilt will destroy Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
Since Bar Kochba also believes that Olmert was “left-wing” it seems like Nomi & he are cousins. But this comment certainly tells you a lot about who Nomi is ideologically & how much trust to place in anything she says.
That is a false number. Prove it via a credible source.
Yes, it proves that the only sane person as far as Nomi is concerned is someone who desperately DOES NOT want to end the conflict (except on Israel’s terms). That would be her current rightist government (if she’s Israeli).
More lies. THis is entirely made up by you & your rightist propagandist friends. My comment rules state that claims must be factual and not figments of your political imagination. If you have a claim you must support it with a credible source. If you present lies as facts your comment privileges will be in danger.
I truly think rightist pro-Israel lunacy of Nomi’s sort will destroy Israel.
Nomi, wow, if you represent a significant swath of the Israeli mind-set, then us Americans have a lot to be worried about. You state, “Do you honestly think any Arab would give any land to Jews”, talk about racist, essentialist thinking. And if you think Olmert was “left-wing”, then your sense of the political spectrum is pretty out there. Obama is far more progressive in his world-view than Olmert was, and I consider Obama a centre-right American President overall (at least so far).
As for Iran, at least we’re seeing thousands of men and women in the streets of Teheran, it seems there is some robust dissent over there in the Islamic Republic. The picture on the front page of the New York Times today is great. This popular Iranian dissent is sadly more than can be said for my own country back in 2000 when George Bush and the Republicans clearly stole that election. I don’t remember massive earth-shaking demonstrations in American streets when our democrary was shown to be a farce. Perhaps Iran has a healthier, more robust, civil society than we do as I see all the vigorous dissent going on over there as we speak. Frankly, the U.S. and particularly Israel are not in the best shape to lecture the non-Western world about democracy. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. (i.e., actual functioning democracies) frankly have more of a solid basis for lecturing about healthy democracy than we do.
Palestinian Arabs were the majority. Jews were the minority and yet were partitioned over 50 percent of Historic Palestine. It’s never been fair for the Palestinians.
I don’t believe your summary of Olmert’s proposal. I want details. Since the previous offers have been revealed to be nothing but propaganda.
“historic palestine” hmm???