The "demilitarized Palestinian state side-by-side with the Jewish state" that Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about in his long-awaited speech at Bar -Ilan University last week is not right around the corner. His speech may have brought a feeling of satisfaction to all those who have been preaching the merits of the two-state solution, but they should not hold their breath in anticipation of its implementation.
There is really nothing like being able to say "I told you so." And so there is joy on the left. Rightists who refused to accept the claim that a solution - or better yet, the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - is two states for two peoples west of the Jordan river, are surrendering one after the other.
Now another one has bit the dust, none other than Netanyahu. If he had included in his speech a statement that Jordan is not a Palestinian state and that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace, the joy of the left might have been complete.
But that satisfaction they cannot have, because Jordan is a Palestinian state in all but name, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persisted even when the Jordanians destroyed all Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria after the Jordanian Legion conquered the area in 1948.
So why not call a spade a spade? What is being called for is a second Palestinian state. If it were created there would be an eastern and western Palestinian state, just as there exists today a South and North Korea, and once upon a time an East and West Germany. That such a situation would in time represent a threat to the Kingdom of Jordan is most likely, but that hardly seems to concern anyone now.
And what of the declarations that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace, or even the preposterous claim that they are illegal, and therefore should be dismantled so that the western Palestinian state be cleared of any Jewish presence in its territory? It is true that it would be in conformity with the situation existing in Jordan at present, where the law provides the death penalty for anyone selling land to a Jew.
It is also in accordance with a similar statute that has been approved by the Palestinian Authority for Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. But it boggles the mind that anyone who subscribes to the values of Western civilization would advocate a policy that is aimed at bringing about such a result.
So leaving the drama aside, what is the significance of Netanyahu's speech? Speeches rarely change the reality on the ground, and it is the reality on the ground that will constrain progress. Hamas controls Gaza and is amassing weapons with the objective of terrorizing Israel's civilian population. And Mahmoud Abbas does not control Judea and Samaria, despite the assistance he receives from Israel, the United States and the European Union. He is not in a position to implement any agreements he might sign.
Palestinian terror remains the major obstacle, and until such time that it is subdued there is not likely to be much progress toward peace. Terrorists are usually not impressed by words.
The task at hand is to suppress Palestinian terror. When that task is accomplished a number of options for a peaceful settlement in the area will begin to open up. The two-state solution will be only one of them.
But in the meantime it should be made clear to everyone: Israel is an independent nation. It is not, as Menachem Begin said many years ago to the U.S. ambassador at the time, a banana republic.
There was a time before the State of Israel was established when the Jewish people had no choice but to take orders from others. That time has past. Israel's leaders must steer a course that is in the best long-term interests of Israel. We will gladly accept advice, but not orders.
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