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Handing Netanyahu a victory


Benjamin Netanyahu's speech (see Address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Begin-Sadat Center should not be viewed in the context of a "peace process" or judged in terms of its relevance to peacemaking. None of the peace-related utterances of Israeli, Palestinian or the Arab or Muslim world are actually directed at making peace, because none of the parties believes in the possibility of peace at this point or has worked to develop, in its own constituency, a concept of peace that might be acceptable to the other side.

A speech like that of Mr Netanyahu, or the Arab Peace Initiative, or a statement by Palestinian leaders has several purposes:

To make the right peace noises in order to relieve American and European pressure and curry favor with moderates at home.

To fashion the peace offer in such a way, and with such conditions, that it looks reasonable to outsiders, but that there is no 'danger' whatever that the other side could ever accept it.

To curry favor and gather support in their own constituency, by reiterating unifying national rally cries such as "united Jerusalem" or conversely, "A Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem." "Right of Return" or denial of Right of Return for refugees, "Right of resistance" or "Security against terror."

To establish the justification for the next round of hostilities by showing that they have made a peace offer that was rebuffed.

To assert and reiterate national rights as they see it, until these hopefully, by dint of repetition, become accepted by the rest of the world.

To put the other side on the defensive and require them to come up with a "peace plan" of their own. :

This sort of speech has an ancient and honorable history, going back at least to the beginning of the Roman Republic, when peace offers were made to hapless Latin neighbors, so that the fetiales priests could later justify war on the grounds that the other side had refused speech. The Friedensrede of Bismarck and the Friedensreden of Adolf Hitler were notable contributions to this genre that laid the foundation for two world wars. .The Arab Peace Initiative and the letter of the Palestinian Prisoners as well as most of the pronouncements about "peace" of the served most of the above purposes. After all, nobody could seriously hope that Israel would accept obliteration of Jewish rights in the old city of Jerusalem, "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees, or the "right of resistance" affirmed by the Prisoners' letter. Similarly, it is really doubtful that Benjamin Netanyahu expects Palestinians to accept obliteration of their rights in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu made a single "concession" to Palestinians and to Barack Obama in agreeing to a demilitarized Palestinian state, precisely as several previous Israeli governments had done before him. This elicited a cautious welcome from the Obama administration. Mission number 1 accomplished! Netanyahu made a serious error however, when he gratuitously explained that he had already made this concession privately to President Obama in Washington. The same concession cannot be made twice by the same leader. That's not the way the game is played.

Netanyahu refused to impose a settlement freeze, which would have caused an open revolt in his own party. Netanyahu's speech established a consensus of support among Israelis, accomplishing its first mission. It reiterated the Jewish right to self determination, independent of the Holocaust; it reminded the world that the Israeli Arab conflict preceded the Six Day War and the settlements. It reminded the world that, despite Palestinian claims, there were Jews in the land of Israel in ancient times. All this rhetoric was a chance to put the Israeli case and the Zionist narrative before the world. If the Palestinians and the Arab peace initiative could use UN General Assembly Resolution 194 as a rationale for justifying return of refugees, Netanyahu could balance this by citing UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in support of his demand that Arabs recognize a Jewish state. Mission number 2 accomplished.

The European Union, unsurprisingly, views the Netanyahu speech as insufficient, since he did not declare a settlement freeze. This issue will not go away, and in the future Netanyahu will have to make some concession, as he has already intimated

But Netanyahu's greatest victory could not depend on himself alone. The Arab Peace Initiative, and similar Palestinian moves, failed to avhieve an important goal for many years, since previous Israeli governments refused to reject them. The Olmert government even attended the humiliating Annapolis conference, at which Israeli delegates were forced to enter by the service entrance and Arab delegates would not even shake hands with the Israeli delegation.

With the rise of Netanyahu facing Barack Obama, it looked for a time as though the Palestinians had scored an important victory in the Israeli-Arab peace war. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted right off the bat that Israel would not honor "Annapolis documents" or "Annapolis" something. It was not clear what it was that Israel would not honor, but it really sounded terrible. He then handed the Arab side another free victory by insisting that peace confereces are a waste of time, implying that Germans are cowards, and generally irritating Europeans in his tour of Europe. Lieberman is now off on further "diplomatic" missions to foreign capitals, presumably in order to annoy more foreign governments. The Arabs had succeeded in isolating Israel and painting it as the party that was an obstacle to peace. International media regularly referred to the moderate Mahmoud Abbas versus the ultranationalist right wing Israeli foreign Minister in the right leaning Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Netanyahu speech itself, in which he welcomed the peace initiative of President Obama, did a bit to redress the balance and paint a gray hat, if not a white hat on the Israeli character in the peace play. The big payoff however, was in the reaction of the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu could not have hoped for a better Palestinian response. It is not just the fact that the Palestinians rejected the speech out of hand, and can be painted once again as never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It is the tone and the reasons given for the Palestinian rejection that should give Netanyahu and the settlers the greatest reason for rejoicing. Palestinians did not not concentrate on the settlement freeze that interests the Americans and Europeans. Instead they reassertted their own maximalist demands for return of refugees and obliteration of Jewish rights in the old city of Jerusalem:Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, also lambasted Netanyahu for refusing to recognize erusalem as the capital of the 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," he added.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, launched a scathing attack on Netanyahu, calling him a "swindler and liar."

He said that Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to join the Zionist movement by offering them a state under the protectorate of Israel. He also rejected Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.This sort of noxious hot air goes over well at a Fatah rally, just as Netanyahu's flag waving was aimed at the Likud Central Committee. It should not be for export however. Abu Rodeineh, it may be recalled, the same fellow who insisted that Barack Obama's speech showed the world that Jerusalem is only for Christians and Muslims. This fine fellow does the same good service for Israeli extremists that Avigdor Lieberman does for the Palestinian cause. Hawkish Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon suddenly converted himself to a dove and was quick to claim that Netanyahu's speech laid bare Palestinian rejectionism. A fair person would have to agree. Netanyahu could have offered, and should have ordered, a settlement freeze and other goodies. He could have offered just about anything. The Palestinian leadership would not give up right of return, would not grant any Jewish national rights in the old city, and ould npt admit the legitimacy of Jewish national aspirations in any way. In short, the Palestinians will not, in the foreseeable future, agree to terms that are acceptable to Israel or even viewed as fair by neutral third parties. President Mubarak of Egypt, highly subsidized by the United States, did his bit for the cause of Israel by denying the Jewish people a right to a state, notwithstanding the fact that Palestine declares itself to be an Arab Palestinian state, and Egypt declares itslf to be an Arab state as well as a Muslim state. He thus declared that essentially the Egyptian peace with Israel, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative, are empty stratagems. Netanyahu and those who want to have a peace process without having peace can relax. The settlers can sleep safely in their houses and outposts. They won't have to move any time soon. There is no immediate 'danger' of peace with the Palestinians or the Arabs, and Barack Obama can't do much to change that unless he can really walk on water.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000766.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 06:20 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 2 comments

"Netanyahu and those who want to have a peace process without having peace can relax."

Congratulations! You finally said something that is true. Netanyahu and his criminal Knesset coalition backers want a peace process that never leads to peace. It's a remarkable concession to admit that Israel wants a "process" that never leads to a solution. I suppose the GOI does not desire a solution because it does not have a problem with the current situation that needs solving.

And why should it? Israel has realized almost all of it's designs in the area. Israel has military control of the region, and has used it's hegemony to place illegal settlements throughout the occupied West Bank in a strategic plan intended to preclude the possibility of formation of a viable Palestinian state. The Palestinian population has been oppressed and forced into cantons to live as permanent refugees.

"The settlers can sleep safely in their houses and outposts. They won't have to move any time soon. There is no immediate 'danger' of peace with the Palestinians or the Arabs, and Barack Obama can't do much to change that unless he can really walk on water."

We shall see if Obama can affect changes in the current situation. He can certainly apply pressure, both diplomatic and economic. If those fail to produce sufficient motivation of the parties to produce desired action, there is always an option for more direct force by way of freezing financial assets, blocking all charitable and religious aide, and a complete trade embargo.

Israel's main argument against removal of it's settlements is that they are not illegal -because the West Bank is technically not occupied, it is "disputed" territory. This apparently infers that any national entity can move in with it's own military force and dispute the area as well. If all other efforts fail to bring a just resolution, this might actually happen. Let us hope it does not come to this.

To buttress it's argument that the West Bank is not occupied territory, Israel claims there was no Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank prior to it's capture by Israeli forces. This ignores the fact that there was no Israeli sovereignty in the region either prior to UN resolution 181 that specified two states shall be formed. Until that resolution is fully implemented by the formation of a second -Palestinian state, Israel will never realize the worldwide recognition and normalized relations it so desires.

If Obama is to affect change, he must act swiftly and with all sufficient force to implement a just resolution. Further, he must do it the first time. There will be no second chances. Israel has always practiced a strategy of outflanking and outlasting those US presidents with whom it disagrees on these issues. I imagine Israel is spending it's US aid money right now studying ways and methods of undermining Obama's initiative for resolving the mideast conflict.

The first thing for Obama to do is get everyone's attention. The way to do that is to dry up all funding and financial aid for both sides. Hopefully this will be enough, and further action on less desirable options will not be necessary.

If Obama can complete this task, he will never need to walk on water.


Posted by Kiev500 @ 06/22/2009 08:47 AM CST

" President Mubarak of Egypt, highly subsidized by the United States, did his bit for the cause of Israel by denying the Jewish people a right to a state,"

Nobody on earth can give anyone a state. Demographics culture and a host of other factors will determine a state's character. Israel can demand a Jewish state from the Arabs all they want. The Arabs can't give it to them because state's are not developed in that manner. Israel will be forced to change to reflect the characteristics within it. Sure the Zionist dream maybe to create a Jewish but what was intended and what happens are to different things.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 08/09/2009 11:19 PM CST

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