by Isi Leibler
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in an unenviable position when he delivered his first major foreign policy address. He was facing tough demands from a highly popular new American president who gives the impression that he seeks to draw the
At the same time, Netanyahu was confronted by hard-line nationalists in his own government, seemingly unable to appreciate that
Without groveling or conceding on issues related to
Some (myself included) maintained that Netanyahu should have endorsed a conditional Palestinian state from day one and avoided the considerable damage inflicted on
It is to be regretted that in his brilliantly sculptured address to the Muslim world, Obama applied moral equivalency when referring to the Holocaust and Arab refugees. He also effectively endorsed the Arab narrative when implying that the creation of a Jewish state represented a restitution for the Holocaust which inflicted suffering on innocent Palestinians.
Netanyahu forcefully but diplomatically repudiated this false narrative, underlining the 3,500 years of profound Jewish connection to the Holy Land which preceded the Holocaust and politely highlighting facts which demonstrate that the suffering of the Palestinians all along has been largely self-inflicted.
The most sensitive component of Netanyahu's address was the formal endorsement of a Palestinian state subject to acceptance of the following four caveats: (i) recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; (ii) demilitarization, endorsed by international guarantees to prevent the formation of another Hamastan or an Iranian enclave; (iii) an end to the obscene anti-Semitic incitement, which to this day permeates every sector of Palestinian society; and (iv) recognition that descendants of Palestinian refugees would not be repatriated to Israel.
GIVEN THE HISTORY of the Arab-Israel conflict, if the White House is unable to concede that
In an effort to demonstrate goodwill and avoid frontal confrontation, Netanyahu undertook to impose a freeze in relation to creating new settlements. However he insisted that settlers be enabled to lead "normal lives," signaling approval of natural growth in the major settlement blocs. He also expressed the commitment of his government to an undivided
The initial response from the Palestinians was hardly encouraging. The PA renewed threats to revert to armed conflict and terror, and Saeb Erekat declared that "Netanyahu will have to wait 1,000 years to find a single Palestinian who will co-operate with him on the basis of this speech."
If the Palestinians refuse to consider Netanyahu's proposals, they will be replicating the intransigent behavior of Arafat and Abbas, both of whom rejected offers from Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert for 97% of territory over the Green Line. This would reaffirm that ironically it is the Palestinians not Israelis who are the barrier to a Palestinian state, because their overriding motivation remains to obliterate Jewish sovereignty in the area.
Obama's initial response to Netanyahu's speech was that "what we are seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks." The White House also stated that Netanyahu's address was "an important step forward."
But we must not delude ourselves. To date the Obama administration's actions display a consistent determination to distance the
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House spokesmen have reiterated that the Administration rejects and denies undertakings that the Bush Administration supported: the Israeli retention of regions such as Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim and settlements adjacent to
UNDER THESE circumstances we desperately need a unity government. The Prime Minister has expressed a policy which enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of the nation. Today, there is nothing of substance differentiating the policies of Kadima from those of Likud. For Tzipi Livni to continue subordinating the national interest at such a critical time merely to promote her personal ambition is simply unconscionable.
It is also now critical that we encourage American Jews to actively support us. With 80% of them having voted for Obama after his guarantee that he would never forsake
Should Obama, despite protestations to the contrary, continue applying pressure on
Netanyahu has displayed courage in presenting a principled position which is supported by the vast majority of Israelis. He has reiterated that Israelis are willing to make real sacrifices to achieve a genuine peace. But until such time as our neighbors demonstrate reciprocity and genuine commitment to peaceful relations, we can no longer be expected to make further unilateral concessions but must unite and stand firm against pressures to force us to do otherwise.
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