June 14, 2009
Netanyahu's Response To Obama
Much anticipated and quite frankly much better to my mind in laying out the state of play than Obama's Cairo speech.
The big take away has been Netanyahu's acceptance of the so-called 'two-state solution'. It's mostly a big deal because his coalition partners are on record opposing that and he's never personally endorsed the idea. My guess is he got them to go along by pointing out everyone has been talking about this for 15 years or so and it's not an inch closer to happening, so what the hell.
More interesting to me was Netanyahu's conditions for bringing about this much hoped for around the world state of affairs.
This policy must take into account the international situation that has recently developed. We must recognise this reality and at the same time stand firmly on those principles essential for Israel. I have already stressed the first principle – recognition. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarisation. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarised with ironclad security provisions for Israel. Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza. We don't want Kassam rockets on Petach Tikva, Grad rockets on Tel Aviv, or missiles on Ben-Gurion airport. We want peace.
In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hizbollah and Iran. On this point as well, there is wide consensus within Israel.
It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarised.
On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed.
Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarised: namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory – real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.
Yeah, um, who is going to enforce those commitments? US troops maybe? In the past Samantha "Hillary Is A Monster" Power suggested using US troops to impose an agreement, why not if the parties ask for them? Power by the way, was appointed to NSC staff.
If that's what Bibi is hinting at, it's a clever way to say to Obama, "Ok, put your money and US lives where your big mouth is". As Netanyahu knows, it also has the benefit of being a non-starter in the US. Can you imagine US troops patrolling the West Bank and Gaza? It would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like a kid's birthday party.
This is why so much of US involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is simply window dressing. It's great to talk about peace and co-existence but when the rubber meets the road, no one knows what step 2 is. Contrary to popular belief
Step 1: Talk about peace
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Unicorns for everyone!
is not actually a workable policy. This is especially true when a large segment of the Palestinian population actually voted for Hamas, which you may recall, is still dedicated to driving the Jews into the sea.
This brings me to the next interesting contrast between the dueling Obama/Netanyahu speeches.
Obama traced the roots of the Israeli's existence and legitimacy to the Holocaust. That's historically incorrect and naturally puts Israel on the defensive.
Netanyahu laid out the 'rest of the story' as it were.
So far I have spoken about the need for Palestinians to recognise our rights. In a moment, I will speak openly about our need to recognise their rights. But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. 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.
The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2000 years the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust – a suffering which has no parallel in human history. There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred. This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defence. But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged. As Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in Israel's Declaration of Independence: "The Jewish people arose in the land of Israel and it was here that its spiritual, religious and political character was shaped. Here they attained their sovereignty, and here they bequeathed to the world their national and cultural treasures, and the most eternal of books."
For some reason Obama omitted that stuff from his speech.
It's especially puzzling since Obama said in Cairo,
I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
Apparently he doesn't feel it's part of his responsibility to fight against the stereotype of Jews as land grabbing, Johnny Come Latelys to the region.
Netanyahu also laid out the history of negotiations that have produced nothing but broken promises from the Palestinians and a useful primer on how the these two peoples have gotten to this point. Obama would do well to read the whole speech, he might learn something about a complex and old issues he seems hell bent on injecting himself and the US into.
While people will focus on Netanyahu's 'two-state' language (The White House calls the speech "important step forward".), the real story is he's tossing the ball back to Obama with a note saying 'just words' isn't going to change anything.
Call me a cynic but I'd bet we are going to pretty much where we are today on the day Obama leaves office. Some issues are even bigger than He is.
MORE:Palestinian reaction is about what you'd expect, whining combined with threats.
"The speech has destroyed all initiatives and expectations," the statement said. "It has also placed restrictions on all efforts to achieve peace and constitutes a clear challenge to the Palestinian, Arab and American positions."
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, also lambasted Netanyahu for refusing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and his call for solving the issue of Palestinian refugees outside Israel.
"Netanyahu's remarks won't lead to a just and comprehensive peace based on United Nations resolutions," Abu Rudaineh added.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, launched a scathing attack on Netanyahu, calling him a "swindler and liar."
Netanyahu wanted the Palestinians to join the Zionist movement by offering them a state under the protectorate of Israel, Abed Rabbo said. He also rejected Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
But it's the Jews fault for not just handing these people a state. As if they'd know what to do with a state if they ever get it.
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