The principles in Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Illan University were not new — they were the formal reservations in Israel’s 2003 acceptance of the Roadmap: the goal of a Palestinian state depends on it being demilitarized, unable to sign treaties with hostile powers, with effective security measures along its borders and strategic airspace in Israeli control; Arab states need to re-settle any refugees from the 1948 war, in the same way Israel resettled Jewish refugees; and there will be no Palestinian state if it is not prepared simultaneously to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders.
None of these conditions are problematical if a peaceful Palestinian state is the goal of the process; all are problematical if the goal is to obtain land to launch the next effort to recover “Palestine” – as happened when Gaza was transferred in 2005 to a Palestinian Authority that trumpeted its readiness to receive it. The Gaza experiment demonstrated Israel was prepared to dismantle settlements, and the aftermath in Gaza demonstrated that settlements were not the problem.
The peace process is currently less a diplomatic effort than a bankruptcy proceeding for a failed enterprise that continues only because it is too big to fail. Israel thought it would be a secured creditor in the proceeding, since it holds written promises from the U.S. (issued in 1997, 2004 and 2009) that the process must result in defensible borders for Israel. But the Palestinians are the UAW of the peace process, making extraordinary demands because they believe the new U.S. government will ultimately hand them ownership of the enterprise.
They demand that Israel affirm a two-state solution while they simultaneously refuse to recognize that one of the states must be Jewish. They demand Israel meet a Phase I obligation to stop settlement activity, without regard for the manner in which that obligation previously has been interpreted, while they are themselves totally unable to undertake their own Phase I obligation to dismantle Hamas. They reject Phase II of the Roadmap (a state with provisional sovereignty), but their powerless president — now in the 54th month of his 48-month term of office — nevertheless says they are “fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z.” They are in fact still working on “A.”
The Palestinians seek U.S. support for the creation of a Judenrein state, with every Jew sent to a state the Palestinians refuse to recognize as Jewish, to live side by side with indefensible borders. It is, as George Will noted, unworthy of America to play an “even-handed” role in such a process. Netanyahu has reiterated the principles that formed the basis of Israel’s acceptance of the “peace process” and has insisted that it must achieve what Israel has been formally promised on multiple occasions would result from it.