Thursday, July 11, 2013
Where is Benjamin Netanyahu taking us?
The prime minister may believe his offer of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank is a 'win-win' for Israel, but he is gravely mistaken.
By Moshe Arens, Haaretz.com
We may not know at the moment the exact status of the indirect negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, taking place by courtesy of John Kerry, but listening to Netanyahu's rhetoric we can discern where he is trying to take us. Nobody can object to his readiness to enter into negotiations with Abbas without preconditions, even though it is clear to all that Abbas does not speak for and cannot make commitments for all of the Palestinians. That is, after all, a traditional and reasonable Israeli position - let's sit down and talk, and maybe we'll find that we can reach an agreement. But behind this simple, almost simple-minded position there now hide implicit Israeli concessions which are becoming more explicit by the day.
When Netanyahu repeats, almost daily, "We don't want a bi-national state," or in other words we don't want to add any more Arabs to the State of Israel, and that he believes in the two-state solution and that he is prepared to share the land west of the Jordan River with the Palestinians, it is not only Abbas who understands that Netanyahu is prepared to turn all, or almost all, of Judea and Samaria over to some kind of Palestinian sovereignty.
This negotiating position may look like a win-win situation to our prime minister. If, despite this generous offer, Abbas refuses to enter negotiations, or after entering negotiations refuses to come to an agreement, Israel will presumably come out of this American-chaperoned process squeaky-clean, blameless.
Moreover, it will have been proved that there is really no partner for negotiations with the Palestinians. Like then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who 13 years ago offered then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat almost everything, including the Temple Mount, and on being refused declared proudly that he had now proved that there was really nobody to talk to on the Palestinian side. Presumably, it will be another victory for Israeli PR.
And if, believe it or not, Abbas is prepared to accept the Israeli offer, Israel will have saved itself from becoming a "binational" state, will have removed the stigma of being an "occupier," or a "colonial power," as Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says, and will be applauded by the whole "international community." So it's "win-win."
Either way we come out smelling like a rose.
But not so fast. If Abbas remains obstinate, despite the Israeli enticement and American pressure, will this really be a net gain for Israel? Will the offer of Judea and Samaria rejected by Abbas then just vanish, like a concession written on ice that melts with the first heat wave, disappearing forever? Not on your life. What was offered first by Barak, then by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and now by Netanyahu, will be written in stone and require Herculean efforts in the future to erase. A net loss.
If he agrees, what then? A solution to the Palestinian problem, an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and no further demands by the Palestinians on Israel - neither for the right of return nor for additional territory - in other words, peace? Not by a long shot.
Just listen to Netanyahu speaking at Mount Herzl on the 109th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, and listen closely: "[W]e do not want a bi-national country. However, let no one delude themselves into thinking that if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians it would erase the wild slander against the Jewish state."
What does that mean? An agreement with Abbas won't be the end of the conflict and it won't be peace. And there will be additional demands made on Israel and there will be rockets falling on Israel - but the heart of the Land of Israel, Judea and Samaria, will have been abandoned by Israel.Whether Abbas agrees or not, either way it will be a loss. It's not a win-win situation at all - it's lose-lose.