Netanyahu delivers a statement in Har Homa.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The patronizing and disrespectful reaction in parts of the American media and from the mouths of certain officials in Washington to the outcome of the Israeli elections is a slap in the face of Israel’s democracy and its people’s right to make up its own mind. To lecture Israel which has just held an exemplary democratic, free and peaceful election, equal or superior to elections in any other Western country, excluding none, raises more than a few questions.
US President Barack Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest’s statement that the US will “re-evaluate our approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a case in point – as was the president’s own comment to the Huffington Post, i.e. that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks during his election campaign had “upended the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”
Though he didn’t specify exactly what peace process he was referring to: the one which had been going on ditheringly for decades under different Israeli governments, Left, Right or Center – or the most recent unsuccessful chapter in the saga, coming to an unhappy end just a few months ago.
The reasons for this ongoing debacle should be crystal clear to anyone with an open and unprejudiced mind: the Palestinian leadership, whether in Yasser Arafat’s terrorist mould or under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate transmigration, has consistently, sometimes directly, more often deviously, refused to engage Israel in meaningful talks on most of the principal issues of the conflict, such as Arab “refugees,” the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and especially security – even refusing to acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people (thus implicitly rejecting the Jewish people’s very right to a state of its own).
What the Palestinian position clearly indicates, and this has been their stance all along, is that compromise and concessions are to be made by Israel alone – “we the Palestinians should not be expected to give up any of our demands.” Unfortunately, the recent comments emanating from Washington can only encourage Abbas to persist in his adamancy – and to continue his strategic quest to achieve his statehood goals not by direct talks with Israel but through the UN and other international bodies. This, to remind us, would be in direct contravention of established US policy – a policy which one hopes will continue to be clearly expressed and enforced by the US at the UN and elsewhere.
That in fact is the only “option” on this subject, setting store by the administration’s commitment to peace and Israel’s security.
The president has also expressed his misgivings about “seeing a chaotic situation in the region” ‒ but unfortunately that situation is already here, all over the Middle East ‒ and it has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as President Obama himself admitted in his last year’s UN speech ‒ and even less so with Israel itself which remains America’s only stable and democratic ally in the entire region, or with Netanyahu’s “campaign talk.”
As usual there was also the mantra of “expanding” settlements, though one may assume that given America’s record of closely monitoring everything going on beyond the former “Green Line” it knows that in fact there has been little settlement-related activity for many years – except in the big settlement blocs whose area is no greater than five percent of the West Bank and Jerusalem, neither of which falls under the same heading anyway.
I cannot claim to speak for Netanyahu, but I believe that his logically unassailable position on Palestinian statehood should be interpreted as follows: “I have agreed in principle to the “two-state” formula because I do not want to rule over another people and I do not believe that Israel’s future is to be one of ‘one state for two peoples.’ I have made this clear, not only in the Bar-Ilan speech, but also in numerous statements since. But as a responsible leader of my people, I cannot ignore the reality in the region in which we live – Islamic State (IS) and Iran-instigated and -conducted terrorism everywhere in the Middle East and beyond, and Iran itself spreading its hegemonic wings from Iraq to Yemen.”
(One may assume that Netanyahu’s victory has quite pleased America’s traditional Arab allies in the region – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the other Gulf states – which share Israel’s worries about Tehran’s expanding hegemonic net and the possibility of its going nuclear.) Add to that Abbas joining forces with Hamas in a Palestinian unity government, and there is practically complete certainty that a Palestinian state, rashly established, would swiftly turn into a Hamas or IS-dominated entity, without long-term physical and contractual security arrangements being in place.
This constitutes an immediate and grievous threat to the continued existence of the Jewish state, and perhaps to the future of the Jewish people.
“On my watch this is not going to happen” Netanyahu declares – and though his basic position on eventual Palestinian statehood has not changed, he will not be rushed into precipitate actions which he sees as endangering what the Jewish national rebirth was all about. Basically he is a pragmatist ‒ and so, one wants to believe, is President Obama.