Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on his recent visit to the US, spoke publicly
quite a bit.
He spoke before the cameras with US President Barack Obama
in Washington, and in New York before the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, and at the Council on Foreign Relations in New
York. He gave interviews on CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox.
Yet, despite all the
words, one would be hard pressed to point to any detailed information he gave to
some of the most pressing questions, such as what he will do about extending the
settlement freeze, what concrete steps he will take toward the Palestinians to
move them into direct talks, and how he will ultimately deal with
It is not that he wasn’t asked these questions directly, it was
just that he preferred to dance around them.
From all of what the prime
minister said in the US, the public now knows that he wants direct talks
the Palestinians a great deal, believes relations with the US are on
hopes the international community does more to stop Iran.
ground-breaking revelations. He painted broad strokes, but he did not
However, there is one element that jumps off the page during
a careful reading of what Netanyahu said publicly in the US – and that
element of time and how, as opposed to previous agreements signed with
Palestinians, Netanyahu is hinting that in any accord he may sign, time
a major component.
Truth be told, this was not the first time that
Netanyahu has alluded to time as part of an agreement. During
to the US in March, when he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), he first gave an indication of how time – at least in
mind –could be used to defuse some prickly questions.
Since that speech
was given just a couple weeks after the dust-up with Vice President Joe
over building in Jerusalem beyond the 1967 lines, everyone was focused
he said about settlements and Jerusalem, and little attention was paid
following: “Israel’s main security problem with Gaza is not its border
Gaza. It’s Gaza’s border with Egypt, under which nearly 1,000 tunnels
dug to smuggle weapons. Experience has shown that only an Israeli
the ground can prevent weapons smuggling,” Netanyahu said.
“This is why a
peace agreement with the Palestinians must include an Israeli presence
eastern border of a future Palestinian state. If peace with the
proves its durability over time, we can review security
Netanyahu had said prior to that speech that any agreement
would necessitate an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future
Palestinian state, but this was the first time he said that such an
could be revisited after a certain period of time if the peace agreement
actually held water.
The Palestinians, of course, are adamantly opposed
to any Israeli presence along a future eastern frontier.
this idea, and – during his recent visit to the US – expanded on it a
In an interview broadcast Sunday on Fox, Netanyahu said that he
thought an Israeli-Palestinian agreement could be reached by 2012. But,
added, “It may be implemented over time, because time is an important
getting the solution, both in terms of security arrangements and other
that would be difficult if they’re not allowed to take place over
Netanyahu, in a speech last Thursday to the Council on Foreign
Relations in New York, elaborated on this theme.
“I think the most
important thing is to, first, try to define a clear vision of peace,
people see the benefits of what it is they’re getting,” Netanyahu
“The second thing, I think, is to introduce a very important
dimension for the implementation of this peace agreement, and that is
dimension of time,” he said. “Time is a crucial element both for
for other critical elements of a solution. It has – it’s a great
change. And if you build in a time factor to any type of solution that
I think it would help enormously.
But the rest I’ll leave to the
negotiations that I intend to have with [Palestinian Authority]
Netanyahu’s thinking is that in dealing with some of
the core issues, like security and even settlements, once you add a time
into the mix – saying, for instance, that certain things won’t happen
decade, or even more – then certain land mines might be disarmed.
a way, in this thought process, of finding a way to resolve certain
For instance, using this approach in dealing with the loaded
question of settlements, if there is a peace agreement it could
written that, in some 10 or 20 years, sovereignty over the areas would
transferred to the Palestinians.
Under this way of thinking, a way of
thinking Netanyahu has alluded to now on more than one occasion,
building a time
element into any accord would open up different possibilities that would
exist were one to think that everything – as was done in the
Gaza – needed to be done immediately.
A type of accord that would mandate
the almost immediate dismantling of settlements is almost unthinkable
the current government, and considering the experience the country went
following the evacuation of Gaza.
What a careful listening of Netanyahu
indicates, however, is an idea developing whereby an agreement would be
constructed in such a way that people would begin to see the benefits of
and then – only later and if the agreement holds – would difficult steps
taken that would be extremely difficult to take now, such as removing an
security presence from the Jordan River, or transferring sovereignty
settlements to the Palestinians.