Shimon Shiffer

Futile negotiations

Op-ed: Instead of suggesting bold alternative, Netanyahu loading 'two states' cart with irrational demands

Last week, it was reported, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams decided to step up the pace of the talks on a permanent agreement and meet twice a week. The American government gave the negotiations nine months. But between you and me, this lemon will not produce even one drop of lemonade.


It was enough to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at Bar-Ilan University, during which he said an agreement could not be reached as long as the Palestinians do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and to Abbas, who during a meeting with Israelis in Ramallah rejected the possibility of a long-term interim deal. The talks must lead only to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the Palestinian leader clarified.


You do not have to be a fly on the wall in the room where the negotiation teams headed by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat are sitting to reach the conclusion that the gaps between them cannot be bridged. The issues of borders, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the deployment of international forces in the Jordan Valley and the evacuation of settlements – all these stand as a fortified wall on the road to an agreement.


From his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu has been dragged into ratifying agreements his predecessors had reached with the Palestinians. This was the case with the Oslo deal and Netanyahu's "two states for two peoples" statement during his second term. Though Netanyahu did not believe in the solutions he was speaking of – not for a moment – he did not have the guts to challenge the international community and suggest another solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, Netanyahu did what he does best: He loaded the "two states" cart with irrational conditions, knowing the other side would reject them.


For example: The recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The late Menachem Begin would have never even considered demanding from someone to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. With all due respect, Begin would have said, we do not need anyone's recognition. We are the Jewish state. Begin also never considered agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He spoke of "self-administration for the Palestinians," meaning autonomy in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.


Another one of Netanyahu's favorite demands is a demilitarized Palestinian state. Unfortunately, the Palestinians discovered the ultimate weapon, which has hurt us more than any other weapon: Not missiles, but suicide bombers. This unlimited tool forced Israel to regain control over the West Bank in order to protect its citizens and hurt our national morale more than the rockets from Gaza.


If Netanyahu were a leader and not just someone who delivers speeches and preaches morality to the other side, he would have suggested a bold alternative. Today it is clear - not only according to Netanyahu's worldview – that the idea of two states is not feasible. A new formula is needed if the Israeli and Palestinian entities are to exist alongside one another; a formula that will preserve Israel as a democratic state one the hand, and secure basic rights for the Palestinians on the other.


And so, we are approaching the moment where the US will have to place a proposal on the table that may force Israel into a direct confrontation with the international community. Europe, with the Americans' encouragement, will be given the green light to bash Israel, and Netanyahu will have to do more than deliver Churchillesque addresses. Unless Netanyahu offers something new in his next Bar-Ilan speech, all that will remain of his three terms as prime minister are the speeches, which will be thrown into the garbage bin of history. And we will be left with a bloody reality.



פרסום ראשון: 10.15.13, 10:22
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