Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his much awaited speech in response to US President Obama’s call for a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu’s response was predictable. Knowing that the conditions he would put on accepting a Palestinian state could not possibly be met by the Palestinian people he outlined the circumstances under which he could accept the existence of a separate Palestinian state. Netanyahu knew that all Obama wanted to hear was ‘yes’ to a two state solution. It’s a win for Obama because that’s all he wanted to hear; the conditions mean nothing to him at this stage – all Obama wanted was a political win on the basic concept.
And, of course, it’s a win for Netanyahu because he knows that his conditions of accepting a Palestinian state are way beyond what the Palestinians will be willing to accept. His Zionist followers will be able to rest easy knowing that under Netanyahu, creating a Palestinian state will be impossible. What will now follow, as always, are endless talks that, again as always, will resolve absolutely nothing. Already the Palestinian leadership are outraged at Netanyahu’s offer. Netanyahu has demanded that a future Palestinian state be demilitarised and recognise Israel as a Jewish state. No sooner uttered, these demands are doomed to put an end to any notion of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu re-emphasised his alternative approach to relations with the Palestinians via the gift box of economic ties but, again, he knows this will never happen. Israel has its own economic problems right now without trying to sort out the massive economic problems the Palestinians have. Long term economic commitments aren’t going to solve the vast political differences and Netanyahu knows it.
Netanyahu himself outlines the bottom line of the problem. He says: “Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.”
That, indeed, is the reality and the truth. The problem is that the Jewish people that seek a homeland want it to include land that does not belong to them. Many Zionists, Netanyahu and many of his political allies in his government amongst them, believe that their ‘historic homeland’, a Greater Israel, includes all of Judea and Samaria together with Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, not to mention all the lands they took beyond that which the UN gave them in 1948. To demand of the Palestinians that they say: “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way” is to ask the impossible – and Netanyahu knows it. Why on earth would the Palestinians say: “We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace” as Netanyahu demands? It’s just not going to happen especially when Netanyahu speaks of “…the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years.” Then goes on to say: “Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.”
Then, just to ensure that the Palestinians never agree to Israel’s demands, Netanyahu says: “It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.” One can be sure that it will be equally impossible for the Palestinian people to agree to such a principle. A sovereign state is one that is free to defend itself and demand that its airspace is regarded also as sovereign. A sovereign state being allowed to exist only upon the conditions and demands of another sovereign state is no sovereign state at all – and Netanyahu knows that.
All that Netanyahu has succeeded in doing with his speech is buy more time for the Zionists to find some other way of fulfilling their dream of creating a Greater Israel. He has also been able to offer Obama a flicker of political hope that will ultimately achieve absolutely nothing whatsoever.
Netanyahu knows it and so does Obama.