Listen to anyone in the liberal chattering classes talk about the Middle East and there’s little doubt about who is to blame for the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians: Benjamin Netanyahu. According to the conventional wisdom spouted by most daily editorial pages, not to mention the many foreign cheerleaders for the Palestinians, the Israeli prime minister is alleged to be an intransigent foe of peace talks that has single-handed stopped progress toward peace. That this contradicts the facts about Netanyahu as well as ignores the record of the Palestinians doesn’t seem to bother anyone who spread this disinformation. So no one should be surprised if Netanyahu’s latest affirmation of his support for a two-state solution and call for talks with the Palestinians without preconditions doesn’t change anyone’s mind.
For those paying attention to what is actually going on, as opposed to Palestinian propaganda, Netanyahu gave a watershed speech back in 2009 at Bar-Ilan University in which he formally embraced the two-state concept. Since then he has constantly asked Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the negotiating table that he fled in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered him an independent state including nearly all of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. As Ynet reported, the prime minister said he stood by his Bar-Ilan speech:
Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, Netanyahu said he still stands by his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech where he backed the concept of two states for two peoples.
“I believe that a framework to peace (with the Palestinians) is what I outlined in my speech in Bar-Ilan University – two states for two peoples: A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu’s critics claim that his acceptance of two states hinges on conditions that are impossible for the Palestinians to accept. But in contrast to Abbas, Netanyahu is prepared to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians are not being asked to pledge anything in advance of talks. It is, in fact, the PA that insists that the Israelis must concede the entire substance of the negotiations on territory, settlements, borders and everything else in advance of Abbas deigning to rejoin the peace process.
Though it is true that much of Netanyahu’s constituency is uncomfortable with the idea of a Palestinian state, where Abbas, or any Palestinian leader ready to actually end the conflict and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn, no Israeli government could possibly refuse them. But despite repeated Israeli offers of a state, the Palestinians continue to refuse to talk, let alone sign off on a permanent peace accord.
Nor is it reasonable to argue, as many of Netanyahu’s critics do, that settlement building approved by his government makes peace impossible. The construction of homes in Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs that any putative peace accord, even the one put forward by Israeli leftists at Geneva a few years ago, would place inside Israel would not stop the Palestinians from establishing their state in the parts of the country that would go to them.
That’s why the talk about President Obama needing to prod Netanyahu to make peace or return to negotiations that has been heard since the Israeli election makes no sense. Even when Netanyahu did agree to an unnecessary settlement freeze, the Palestinians still refused to negotiate.
The PA didn’t have to go to the UN to get their state. Nor do they require American or European pressure on Israel to achieve their goal of independence. They need only be willing to give up on the dream of replacing Israel with a Palestinian state instead of having one alongside it. Their failure to do so is why most Israelis have lost interest in the peace process. Nor has it escaped their notice that the independent Palestinian state in all but name that currently exists in Gaza is a launching pad for terror attacks on Israel rather than a place where development takes priority over the long war against the Jews.
Rather than placing pressure on Netanyahu to do what he has already promised, the U.S. government and those putting forward canards about Netanyahu need to learn the same lesson start paying attention to the Palestinians.