Bibi Netanyahu, preceding his visit to the U.S., in which he will address a Joint Session of Congress and meet the president at the White House, has done the world a deep disservice by offering nothing in a speech that outlines his position regarding peace negotiations and resolving the conflict. His position might reasonably be characterized as the Three No’s in deference to the Khartoum Declaration by the Arab League, though in Bibi’s case we have to expand the number of no’s to four (at least):
1. No to peace negotiations with a Palestinian unity government
2. No to sharing Jerusalem
3. No to the Right of Return within Israel proper
4. No to any agreement that doesn’t recognize Israeli a priori as a “Jewish state”
The very language of the speech showed the hopelessness of Bibi’s position as he called the undetermined West Bank territory Israel would cede to Palestine part of “our homeland…the land of our fathers [in which] we have historical rights” This marks Bibi just as much of a rejectionist as those in Hamas he excoriates. If the Occupied Territories are part of the Jewish homeland, then why can’t Israel proper be considered by the Palestinian rejectionists part of their inalienable homeland? It’s a zero sum game no matter who’s playing it. But in Bibi’s mind only Israel gets to play the game while the Palestinians have no right to do so. All of which of course makes no sense to anyone but Bibi and his supporters.
Bibi’s “proposal” is a marked retreat from what Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a few years ago in a deal that most thought even then was skewed in Israel’s favor. So from the get-go this is a non-starter. Bibi knows it. Tzipi Livni (and no, Ethan Bronner, the party she heads is not “center-left” except in the mind of a liberal Zionist like yourself) stated the obvious:
“If you do not initiate, decisions will be made for Israel,” Ms. Livni said. “You have missed your opportunity to provide Israel with a vision. You are going to the United States without initiatives for peace.”
I can’t for the life of me understand why he even bothers going through the motions. One reason, I suppose, is that he believes by appealing to the U.S. Congress, which he imagines to be a pro-Israel bastion, he can go over Obama’s and the world’s head; and this somehow will magically prevent creation of a Palestinian state. At some point, Israel and Bibi will have to realize that the U.S. will become irrelevant if enough of the world unite around the consensus that a State must be created for Palestine. But clearly, they’re at the stage of magical thinking and haven’t yet faced up to the sober realities of their position.
There were a few faint yeses in his speech: yes to resuming the $90-million tax revenue transfer to the Palestinians and yes to returning some unspecified portions of West Bank territory to the Palestinians. But the yeses in this presentation were vastly drowned out by the no’s.
If you combine Bibi’s No speech to Israel’s abysmal performance yesterday in murdering unarmed protesting civilians on three different borders and the response such mayhem generated on the world stage, momentum should continue building for declaration of a Palestinian state in the UN this September. This is a train wreck rapidly approaching for the Israeli government. One wonders whether they’ll just stand by and watch it happen; or whether there is some rabbit (like a U.S. full court press against the proposal) they anticipate pulling out of their hat to prevent what appears almost inevitable.
If there is a Palestinian state declared, the question becomes, what then? Do the Palestinians and the UN have a game plan that will transform the Occupied Territories into a state of Palestine? And is that plan viable and feasible? I trust that the Palestinians and hopefully the EU and others (not the U.S. unfortunately) are pondering these questions now. Because a Palestinian state in name only is a recipe for disaster regarding Palestinians expectations.
I’d suggest we should add a new nickname for the Israeli prime minister: Bibi “Why Bother” Netanyahu.