Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, back from the US + the UN where he insisted on even-more-than-full implementation of Security Council demands on Iran, went this evening to Bar Ilan University [where he sort of endorsed something that he hoped at the time could be construed as a two-state solution to the conflict with Palestinians] and threw it all over.
In an unusually-strongly-written piece, Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid reported here that:
“Almost four and half years after he stood at the podium at Bar-Ilan University and delivered a moderate speech in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution, Netanyahu returned to the same spot to give a hawkish address in which he did everything except announce that he is reneging on his agreement in principle to Palestinian statehood. ‘Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace’, he said in his address.
The prime minister went on to say that even if they do agree to these conditions, it will not be sufficient. ‘After generations of incitement we have no confidence that such recognition will percolate down to the Palestinian people’, he said. ‘That is why we need extremely strong security arrangements and to go forward, but not blindly’.
Netanyahu went on to emphasize that the ‘occupation and settlements’ are not the core of the conflict. Netanyahu used the word ‘occupation’ with a mixture of disdain and abhorrence. ‘The conflict, if I have to choose a date when it began in earnest, began in the year 1921, on the day Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigrants’ house in Jaffa. This attack, of course, had nothing to do with the territories or settlements. It was against the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. Then came the Partition Plan in 1947, with the suggestion of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state’, he continued. ‘The Jews agreed, the Arabs refused. Because the issue was not then the question of a Palestinian state – the issue was and remains the Jewish state. Then 19 years later came the stranglehold around us aimed at uprooting us. And why? After all, then there was no occupation’.”
Netanyahu’s speech came only hours after, as Barak Ravid also reported, in an earlier article posted here, “Housing Minister Uri Ariel on Sunday demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provide the cabinet with weekly reports on the negotiations with the Palestinians, fearing that Netanyahu might spring an ‘all or nothing’ solution too far to the left…’It can’t be that the cabinet isn’t kept up to date on such negotiations [Ariel said]. In the end you’ll bring for a cabinet vote a finished product in the style of all or nothing. This can’t continue. I demand information’. Netanyahu did not respond. After not receiving an answer, Ariel said he intends to repeat his demand every week”.
And Netanyahu’s speech preceeded by a day a previously-postponed reciprocal visit to Ramallah, as the Times of Israel reported here, of a group of Israeli MPs [or MKs, Knesset members] dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s approach to negotiations. The Israeli Knesset members have formed a caucus, and had in July hosted, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a small group of Palestinians designated by President Mahmoud Abbas to make contacts with Israelis.
The Times of Israel reported that “caucus chair MK Hilik Bar (Labor) told The Times of Israel on Sunday [before the Netanyahu speech] that: ‘We have a government that has promised to pursue the two-state solution and a majority in the Knesset for two states, despite the rhetoric on the right. We want to show Abu Mazen that we’ll do everything in our power to advance peace, and the Palestinian Authority has to do the same’.” Referring to an attack on a 9-year-old Israeli girl in the “Jewish community” of Psagot, adjoining Ramallah-AlBireh, Bar added: ‘We’re not achieving anything when we stop the negotiations because of these horrific, evil attacks. There have been attacks on Jews for decades. Only a final peace agreement that ends the conflict will end the attacks’.”
Netanyahu’s new tone also followed a two-day conference held at the Eretz Israeli Museum in Tel Aviv organized by the Israeli organization Zochrot, aimed at reducing fear of discussion of the Palestinian Right of Return. Gideon Levy, who addressed the conference, also reported on it, in an article Haaretz published here.
Levy wrote: “When the only issue on the agenda is the Iranian bomb; when the possibility of a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians seems more distant than ever; and when the term ‘right of return’ is far more threatening to Israelis than the term ‘the Iranian bomb’ − this was the time and this was the place for holding the Zochrot conference, under the headline of ‘From Truth to Redress’, with its declared intention of promoting the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lost villages. About 200 Israelis, Jews and Arabs, along with several guests from abroad, participated in the event. Had a passerby found himself there, he would have been persuaded to believe that the return was imminent, any day now. Someone in the lobby said, ‘It’s a little bizarre’ − but under the radar, there is a tiny minority of Israelis, Jews and mainly Arabs, who are working seriously toward making it all happen… in fact, the most powerful part of this conference was the revelation of the existence of such groups − descendants of the uprooted, refugees in their own
country − who already have architectural models of the villages slated to be rebuilt. Some of these people even live now among their ruins, in a quasi-underground manner. In a country where there are people who are seriously planning the construction of the Third Temple; where an outpost is established on every barren hill of the West Bank; where every furrow of land is sacred to the Jews − there is room for them, too, of course”.
Another report on the Zochrot conference, by Esther Zandberg, was also published in Haaretz, here. Zandberg reported that t was “Zochrot’s second such conference. It was not dedicated to the debate over the right of return in itself, but to a concrete discussion of ways to implement the return, in both a symbolic and concrete fashion – culturally, diplomatically and spatially. ‘The objective of this conference is not to argue whether the Palestinian refugees have a right to return, but to see how this right can be realized’, states Zochrot”.
Zandberg added: “The conference focused on ‘the implication of return for the country’s physical, cultural and economic space, on the nature of its future society, the status of Palestinians and Jews living here, the nature of its regime, and, last but not least, the practicalities of returning property after 65 years of refugeehood and the destruction of Palestinian life on the one hand, and the establishment of a Jewish State and the resulting new reality on the other’, said Zochrot. Al-Lajun is a test case for a broader vision, the establishment of seven urban communities in the same area. The communities will be a memorial to the dozens of villages that existed there before the establishment of Israel, and will house their refugees, other ‘internal’ refugees and possibly other returnees in the utopian future…As usual at such conferences, the audience may have been multilingual, but it was already convinced beforehand. Outside there was not even a single demonstration against the conference, and the police who were stationed in the museum courtyard just in case returned to their bases safely. Nonetheless, it seems the right of return made another step on its path to the threshold of public awareness”.