Addressing a joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to make “painful concessions” for a peace deal with moderate Palestinians but only with certain conditions. When President Barack Obama proposed May 19, 2011 using the 1967 borders as a basis for peace talks, it created an Israeli backlash. Barack’s proposal was intended to entice Palestinians back to the peace table, despite proposing an unworkable plan. Israel has some 500,000 settlers living the West Bank, land seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. While Palestinian officials like to talk about Israeli occupation in the West Bank, they know that the land was sovereign territory prior to the Six-Day War. Without Israel’s spoils, Palestinians would have no land for an independent state. Egypt, Jordan and Syria gave no territory for a Palestinian homeland.
Since rejecting Obama’s proposal May 20, Netanyahu has made a compelling case for why the Palestinians are not ready for a peace deal, let alone threatening Israel with resuming their “Intdifada” or suicide bombing to win concessions. Reconciliation talks between West Bank’s Mahmoud Abbas and Gaza’s Ismail Haniyeh, have stalled out, primarily over the West Bank’s civil war with Hamas, currently controlling Egypt’s former territory called the Gaza Strip. While reconciliation talks have been moving forward for months in Cairo at a snail’s pace, Hams recently denounced West Bank leader Mahoud Abbas’ peace efforts. Abbas recognizes Israel’s right to exist and all prior U.N. agreements signed by the late Yasser Arafat. Hamas categorically rejects all prior peace agreements, remains at war with Israel and refuses to stop calling for Israel’s destruction.
Speaking to a joint session Congress today, Netanyahu made it plain there will be no roll back to the 1967 borders, something he calls “indefensible.” “Tear up you pact with Hamas. Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish state,” said Nentanyahu, asking Abbas to renounce terrorism and work toward an independent Palestinian state. “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve the historical peace. As the leader Israel, it is my responsibility,” said Netanyahu, refusing to compromise Israeli security. “What came in Netanyahu’s speech will not lead to peace,” said Ramallah-based West Bank spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah. With all the false starts and failed attempts at peace in the past, Palestinians are not in a position to threaten war or dictate terms for a final deal. Gone are the days before Sept. 11 when the U.S. can tolerate terrorist acts in the name of liberation.
Obama miscalculated badly in his May 19 speech calling for a return to the 1967 borders how things have changed since 9/11. Arafat, who died Nov. 11, 2004, didn’t live to see his dream of a Palestinian state because he continued to use Hamas’ terrorism to pressure Israel into making concessions. After Sept. 11, former President George W. Bush couldn’t accept Palestinians’ old tactics for pressuring Israel. Threatening a new Intifdada or uprising now won’t get Palestinians one inch of territory, pushing statehood into a murky future. Netanyahu won’t likely get his demand for Abbas to proclaim his acceptance of Israel as a Jewish homeland or state. Unlike the old days when former President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Accords opened up peace with Egypt, today’s rampant Middle East extremism makes tolerating the old terrorist tactics unacceptable to win concessions.
Judging by Netanyahu’s thunderous ovation in Congress, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are not in a position to push Israel too hard into making unilateral concessions. “It’s time for [Palestinian] President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,’” said Netanyahu to a standing ovation. U.S. elected officials know that those words would do in an already tottering 76-year-old Abbas. Reconciling with Hamas has made the prospects for peace next to impossible. Netanyahu has no intent of negotiating with any Palestinian faction calling for Israel’s destruction. Abbas needs to put Hamas on notice that he intends to move forward with an independent Palestinian state only in the West Bank. If Abbas moves ahead, Hamas will either fall in line or face the very real prospects of military intervention in Gaza.
Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress proves how far the U.S. has gone in a post-Sept, 11 world on both sides of the aisle in supporting Israel. Obama’s call to return to the pre-1967 is unrealistic with over 500,000 Jewish settlers now living in the West Bank. Palestinians can’t lay claim to Israel’s spoils of the Six-Day War. If Netanyahu wishes to cede territory to Abbas for an eventual Palestinian state, it’s because he believes it’s in Israel’s national security interest. Abbas knows that avoiding the peace table and declaring an independent state won’t have the kind of legitimacy needed to create a sovereign state. “Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated,” said Netanyahu, telling Abbas that Israeli won’t be coerced into making concessions. Before the peace process is dead for the foreseeable future, Abbas must tell Hamas to accept Israel or go it alone.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.