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Points of high importance in Netanyahu speech which were omitted from your article

Reader comment on item: Assessing Binyamin Netanyahu's Speech at Bar-Ilan University

Submitted by Refael Laufert (Israel), Jun 15, 2009 at 03:02

"Points of high importance in Netanyahu's speech…" – comments

In assessing Netanyahu's speech, one should keep in mind three important factors:

  1. His personal approach to the Arab-Israeli Conflict,
  2. His wish to avoid, at least for the time being, a confrontation with the US current administration,
  3. An obvious need to preserve his existing coalition, and maintain his promises to the Likud party members and constituencies.

I think that his speech reflects all those points together as guidelines and main motives.

In light of the above-mentioned issues, the "points of high importance…" of his speech should also include and make reference to the following topics:

  1. Netanyahu's main emphasis in his speech is on the Iranian threat (second in importance is the economy and the third is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). In Netanyahu and Israel's time-table, this is by far the outstanding issue, and the most urgent one. Whether this problem is solved in the near future or not, may have a most significant impact on the nature of any Arab-Israeli negotiation and its potential results. With nuclear Iran around, even those possibilities that Netanyahu explicitly mentioned in his speech, seem remote and impractical. In this case the requirement from the Palestinian Authority to solve the issue of Hamas may become even a pre-condition to any progress beyond a certain point in time. Without nuclear Iran on the other hand, there is a better chance to make progress in the negotiations, even though the Arab leaders' reactions to the speech so far, are quite disappointing and discouraging.
  2. Jerusalem is the historic capital of Israel and should remain united.
  3. The settlements in the 'West Bank' – Israel will not build new settlements and will not expand the legitimate existing ones at the expense of Arabs' owned land. On the other hand, natural growth of the existing settlements will be maintained and accommodated for. There is no intention of the government to take any steps which may harm the settlers, suffocate the settlements or be interpreted as a harsh and harmful prior to negotiations (pre-conditions are not acceptable).

My assessment is that the speech was intentionally somewhat ambiguous on this issue so as to pave the road towards discussions with the Palestinians. At the same time, some indirect meanings have been emerging gradually since the speech was delivered; one example is Dan Meridors' comment recently, which indicated that Status-quo in the West Bank without a political process (i.e. a Palestinian ban on resumption of negotiations with Israel) is 'No option' for Israel.

  1. Broad participation of the Arab countries in the political process in the Middle-East is an essential contribution to its validity. This is based on the concept that a regional political settlement should reflect a final conciliation of the Arab world with Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, in addition to a solution to the Palestinian problem. Conciliation also means abandoning of any future claims against Israel with regard to the past. The agreements will have to determine the timing, conditions and road map for the implementation of these goals.
  2. The Palestinian Authority has to solve the Hamas Issue prior to any agreement. Israel will not sign an agreement with an organization that does not recognize it or its right to exist and live in peace unconditionally; or will it sign separate agreements with The Palestinian Authority, the Hamas or any other separate Palestinian organization. There will have to be one agreement with one acceptable representative of the Palestinian People without exceptions and / or regrets.

6. The concept of 'Economic Peace' has a stabilizing effect in the region. It intends to reduce the economical gaps and differences between Israel and its neighbors, to reduce dependency of a Palestinian state on Israel's economy, and to initiate a major project for settling the Palestinian refugees permanently in the places where they reside currently. The formal act of declaring and establishing a Palestinian state must include economical, administrative, judicial, and law enforcement infrastructure, capable of supporting life in the newly born state, or else the whole 'exercise' may become a farce. Had it not been a matter of national security to Israel, Israel could and perhaps even should refrain from dealing with it altogether but this is not the case. As one can easily deduce from this argumentation, Netanyahu means business. But it should be built gradually, carefully and on a sound basis; it is not a one time shot, but rather a process.

The key to understanding Netanyahu's approach is the overall concern with the complex issue of the national security of Israel: we must persuade a solution which will balance the increased risks Israel can take upon itself with proper compensation made by the Arabs – Palestinians and non Palestinians. Understanding this point is both a measure of goodwill and good intentions. The Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict is asymmetrical in many ways: Population, land, natural resources, political influence, economical potential and many strategic advantages. This asymmety reflects on the nature of an agreement which may by successful – it must not enhance the already existing asymmetrical situation. Any agreement will include certain steps which are easily reversible (declarative, 'paper work' and software-like) and others which are irreversible (mainly withdrawal from territories and strategic positions). This must be balanced in any agreement to come.

If Netanyahu's initiative fails, the only alternative will be to return to the idea of an agreement between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian state, located in the Eastern Bank and part of the Western Bank of the Jordan River, with the Jordan River as Eastern security border for Israel. A non-Jewish state is no option for Israel whatsoever, and if brought up as some non-realistic dreamers suggest, will soon become a case of casus belli.

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