Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, in a speech on Sunday night that was billed as a response to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world from Cairo on 4 June, that Palestinians are living in the Jewish homeland, and must recognize the Jewish right to be there.
Palestinians could live as a “free” people, side-by-side with the Jewish people, with each having its own “national existence”, Netanyahu said, if (1) they recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, and if (2) they agree that “the Palestinian entity must be demilitarized”, with Israel retaining a real defensive edge with “ironclad” security guarantees.
See our full analysis here.
The Israeli organization Peace Now responded to the Netanyahu speech with this critique:
“Bibi is still Bibi, perhaps more sophisticated but without a real message for the State of Israel.
Without vision, without a course of action and without any willingness to lead Israel to the necessary decisions, Netanyahu tried to remake himself, but even the pair of words ‘Palestinian state’ is no magic formula that can cover the political nakedness of Netanyahu and his government.
In Netanyahu’s vision of an upgraded autonomy called a ‘demilitarized Palestinian state’, the lives of the Palestinians will be dictated solely by the whims of the government of Israel in Jerusalem”…
The Peace Now critique continued:
Worrying elements of his speech:
• Netanyahu did not speak of the Palestinians as equal partners, neighbors whose fate is dependent on one another, partners in a long and complex process that requires trust-building, cooperation and a joint war on the extremists on both sides.
• Netanyahu chose to describe the Palestinians as of one cloth, in sweeping generalizations, using patronizing and arrogant language and referring in his speech to the Palestinians as if they were a primitive tribe subject to the graces of Israel.
• Not a word of self-criticism about Israel’s mistakes over the years, not a word about the moral need to put an end to the occupation, not a word about the Palestinian’ s right to negotiate with Israel as equal partners in a real process.
• Freedom of movement and a normal life are a prize the government is willing to give the Palestinians in exchange for their loyal behavior towards Israel.
• The government of Israel would have complete freedom to act, to build, to establish facts on the ground and to expand construction in the settlements
Such an arrogant and aggravating attitude by one side, that wishes to dictate terms to the other side, will never lead to a real agreement of peace and reconciliation between peoples … The Prime Minister’s office was quick to characterize the speech as representing the broad Israeli consensus among the nation today, this is clearly untrue and Peace Now will continue its work to expose the real Netanyahu government and push for a real peace to end the conflict”.
One report in Haaretz today states that “for the Israeli public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday evening was a big success. Right and left, Kadima and Likud, new immigrants and old-timers all found something they liked in the address at Bar-Ilan University.
For example, in only a month, Netanyahu’s approval rating has jumped 16 percentage points from a low of 28 percent the day after the cabinet debate over the budget on May 14. The 44 percent achieved yesterday comes a day after the speech. Public support for Netanyahu’s speech is sky-high, even though Israelis do not have illusions about the prime minister’s motives, which they generally attribute to American pressure … Netanyahu hit a bull’s-eye in the Israeli public consensus with his speech. This is reflected in the results of a Haaretz-Dialog survey conducted yesterday under the auspices of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The numbers show that when Netanyahu deals with leadership on defense and policy matters without scare tactics, the public supports him … The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu’s speech – 71 percent … In terms of internal Israeli politics, Netanyahu put himself in the center of the political map. Most Kadima voters, 49 percent, say Tzipi Livni should join the coalition as a result of the speech, while 37 percent of Kadima voters disagreed … The survey shows that 90 percent of Likud voters, an incredible figure, agreed with what Netanyahu said in his speech. Maybe they are aware that a Palestinian state will not emerge as a result, so they are not worried. In addition, 73 percent of Likud voters say Netanyahu said the right things. The public liked the speech not just because it was based on the Israeli consensus, but also because of its tone: moderate with a desire for peace and casting the blame for a lack of peace on the Arabs”. This report can be read in full here .
Col. (Res.) Shaul Arieli, a former staff advisor to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now a member of the board of the Council for Peace and Security, and one of the architects of the Geneva Initiative, wrote in Haaretz today that “The declarations about the need to crush the two-state idea have been replaced by rearguard skirmishes bent on preventing its implementation. In 1993, Ariel Sharon wanted to announce that if Likud returned to power he would cancel the Oslo Accords; Netanyahu announced that the autonomy program under Israeli control was the sole alternative. These declarations were quickly exchanged for talk about a ‘Palestinian state’ or a ‘demilitarized Palestinian state’… Netanyahu’s speech of regression has aligned him with the positions of Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. They accept the idea of two states but try to torpedo it with conditions that render it ridiculous. That is what Netanyahu did when he said in his address that he was ready to begin peace negotiations immediately without preconditions: He demanded Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish people’s national home, agreement to a demilitarized Palestinian state, removing the refugee issue from the agenda, and maintaining united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – before starting negotiations … A survey conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies revealed that 64 percent of the population supports the idea of two states for two peoples, only 17 percent are prepared to expand settlements at the expense of a confrontation with the United States, and 77 percent support the idea of an evacuation-compensation law. The public should demand that Netanyahu stop throwing billions of shekels into barren plans. Instead, he must renew negotiations immediately without preconditions, accept the regional peace plan and present an Israeli plan that produces a Zionist outcome of a Jewish and democratic state living alongside a Palestinian state”. This commentary can be read in full here.
Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar wrote on Monday that “The prime minister’s speech last night returned the Middle East to the days of George W. Bush’s ‘axis of evil’. Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a patriarchal, colonialist address in the best neoconservative tradition: The Arabs are the bad guys, or at best ungrateful terrorists; the Jews, of course, are the good guys, rational people who need to raise and care for their children. In the West Bank settlement of Itamar, they’re even building a nursery school. No empathy for the refugees from Jaffa who lost their entire world, not a word for the Muslim connection to Jerusalem - neither a fragment of a quote from the Koran, nor a line of Arabic poetry. Netanyahu’s provincial remarks were not intended to penetrate the hearts of the hundreds of millions of Al Jazeera viewers in the Muslim world. Instead, he sought to appease Tzipi Hotovely, the settler Likud lawmaker, and make it possible to live peaceably with the settler foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people didn’t even leave him an opening for forging reconciliation with the Arab citizens in the country. The prime minister’s declaration that Jerusalem will remain he ‘undivided capital’ of Israel – only Israel – slammed the door before the entire Muslim world. And his Hebron is solely the city of the Jewish patriarchs; the Arabs have no such rights at all. The Palestinians can have a state, but only if those foreign invaders show us they know how to eat with a fork and knife. Actually, without a knife. The demilitarization of the Palestinian state was mentioned in the Clinton guidelines, the Taba understandings and the Geneva accord, as was the right of return to Palestine, not Israel. The difference between these documents and the Bar-Ilan address is not only that the former recognized the Palestinians’ full rights to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The real difference lies in the tone – in the degrading and disrespectful nature of Netanyahu’s remarks. That’s not how one brings down a wall of enmity between two nations, that’s not how trust is built”. Akiva Eldar’s article is posted in full here.
Haaretz correspondent Aliyana Traison wrote that “It will go down in history, along with the Oslo Accord and the Camp David treaty, another historic speech of vague validations and vows to break. Cowering to U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just about nothing in his much awaited foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University on Sunday evening, when he called for immediate peace talks without preconditions and a Palestinian state stripped of military capabilities. No preconditions from the Palestinians, Netanyahu meant to say. Israel, on the other hand, is free to scold its neighbor for starting this conflict and delaying a viable final settlement by refusing to recognize it as a Jewish state. No preconditions, but the Palestinian Authority must first topple Hamas or at least cut off all contact. No preconditions, except these conditions. It is impossible to hold peace negotiations without preconditions. Such diplomacy is subversive procrastination. Both sides of this conflict have demands, but rather than open up negotiations with these conditions in mind, they deny their respective red lines and allow the peace process to roll in infinite still motion. Israel and the Palestinian Authority both have preconditions; they need to lay them down and abide by them to get the peace process started again. The Palestinian Authority must concede to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and in return, Israel needs a concrete plan of withdrawal from parts of the West Bank … The Old City of Jerusalem (and then later with Syria, parts of the Golan Heights) must be divided appropriately, with free access to the citizens of both countries involved. West Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter would remain under Israeli control, as its capital, and East Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter would be Palestinian, as their capital. The rest would be annexed to international supervision, with United Nations troops standing guard. Following these steps comes the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu declared that he would endorse such an entity if the international community could guarantee its demilitarization. There are a handful of countries out there without an offensive army, Japan and Costa Rica, for instance; Palestine would not be the first. Should a demilitarized Palestine be established, then Israel would have to compromise for denying a sovereign democracy the right of defense. Israel and Palestine must therefore sign a pact of non-aggression as a concession for a demilitarized state”. This commentary can be read in full here.