The wall is getting closer and higher

Netanyahu's latest sales pitch to Congress altered three fundamental positions that Israel has held for at least a decade, namely, Jerusalem, military presence in the Jordon river and the definition of Palestinian recognition of Israel.

Netanyahu addresses Congress 311 (photo credit: Avi Ohayun/GPO)
Netanyahu addresses Congress 311
(photo credit: Avi Ohayun/GPO)
For those of us in the Middle East, it was quite a week in Washington DC, with speeches and applause galore. Unfortunately, nothing concrete was announced with which we could begin resolving the conflict.
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With great ease, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sold Congress…a totally unusable product. Proving his skills as a master chef of politics, Netanyahu peppered his speech with various creative ingredients. However, despite the enticing smell emanating from Congress, none of it was edible for this particular region’s palate.
There are no other peace products on the menu for our peace-hungry region and resorting to skipping a meal is simply not an option.
The futile peace-market bargaining between Israelis and Palestinians, going on now for almost twenty years, had some fragile rules. Even though very little has been achieved, consistency and continuity were two rules that should never have been broken.
Yet by reversing the three basic positions that previous governments have held for at least a decade, Netanyahu effectively broke these rules. First of all, under former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, Israel agreed to the division of Jerusalem (in 2000 and 2005-6 respectively).
Second, Israel always demanded recognition as "the State of Israel" and nothing more. Lastly, Israel never officially demanded military presence along the Jordan River (even Netanyahu himself did not give mention to this demand in his Bar Ilan speech).
In last week’s Congress speech, Netanyahu objected the division of Jerusalem. He also demanded that Israel be recognized by the Palestinians as a "Jewish State." Finally, he demanded that even in case of an agreed withdrawal, Israel must keep military presence along the Jordan River.
Even a master chef of Netanyahu's magnitude cannot hope to bake a peace cake using these ingredients; at least not one that the Palestinians can easily swallow or digest. So where does this leave us?
With no talks, no peace-process, no workable plan, no vision, and no hope - it leaves us still hungry. And the hunger looks set to turn into starvation with more “Nakba” events and more flotillas on the horizon, and looming further in the distance is September’s UN General Assembly vote. The political-diplomatic wall that the world has erected in front of Israel is closing in on the Jewish state and getting higher at the same time.
During a visit to South Africa for the World Cup last summer, I met F.W. de Klerk, the last State President of the apartheid era. De Klerk asked me bluntly, “What are you doing over there? You might think you’re doing well - but what about your biggest problem? You have to solve the Palestinian issue if you do not want to become the next apartheid [state].”
This coming from a great friend of Israel – as well as a great believer – and as one who intimately understands the implications of apartheid, de Klerk is genuinely worried for the Jewish state’s future.
But the former South Africa president is by no means the only one worried. The whole world realizes the potential dangers that lie ahead, even if doe-eyed Americans in Congress refuse to see them. How can this be? Are Congress members really unaware of the realities facing Israelis and Palestinians? Or was an anti-Obama spectacle only serving America’s domestic interests?
My message to Congress, therefore, is, "Go back to the facts dear friends; do your due diligence before freely giving 30 standing ovations for a 50-minute speech that had very little to do with the painful realities of the conflict."
The writer, a former chargé d’affaires in Turkey and ambassador to South Africa, was director-general of the Foreign Ministry between 2000 and 2001. Today he lectures at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.