There's nothing funnier than reading political pundits trying to get to the bottom of the fine points of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speeches. When he said "settlement blocs," did he mean the evacuation of all the rest? When he spoke of a "military presence" in the Jordan Valley, did he mean the Israel Defense Forces, or an international force?
So many questions and interpretations over nothing. Because the truth is simple and down-to-earth: Netanyahu is not ready for any agreement, any concession, any withdrawal. As far as he's concerned, it's all the Land of Israel - for both historical and security reasons. All the rest is just words. Just speeches designed to relieve some of the pressure being applied by U.S. President Barack Obama. Just bluff and deception.
Netanyahu is not willing to return to the 1967 borders ("with slight adjustments" ), because in his opinion, they are not defensible. He is not willing to withdraw from the Jordan River, and he also wants the Palestinians to declare in advance that they will waive the right of return and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That is why there is nothing to talk about with regard to resuming negotiations. There's no chance of that. And Obama knows it too.
The trumped-up argument over the "1967 borders" is a good example. The U.S. president said in his first speech that an agreement with the Palestinians must establish a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps. Netanyahu deliberately distorted his words and angrily opposed the idea of a return to the 1967 borders. Then Obama explained, in his second speech, that there will be no return to those lines, because there will be land swaps that will take account of the demographic situation - in other words, the settlement blocs.
But Netanyahu meant something else entirely. He was not talking about Ariel or Ma'aleh Adumim - that's crystal-clear. He meant that Israel will not return to having the same "narrow waist" opposite Netanya that it did before 1967, regardless of whether or not the Palestinian state is demilitarized.
He is exactly the same Netanyahu as he was in 1996, during his previous term, when immediately after becoming prime minister, he energetically began destroying the Oslo Accords. He opened the Western Wall tunnel, igniting Jerusalem and the territories, and led to a bloodbath in the West Bank; he expanded the settlements and destroyed any possibility of an agreement.
There were several naive people who believed that his speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he spoke of two states for two peoples, reflected a strategic change. But the speech had only one purpose: relieving the pressure from Obama. And what's the problem with saying "two states"? It depends on what kind of state you mean.
Netanyahu means a tiny statelet composed of three distinct pieces, with no rational territorial contiguity and with two large panhandles dividing them: Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim. It will be far from the 1967 border in the west, without the Jordan Valley in the east, and without any foothold in Jerusalem. And that's a clear nonstarter.
But Netanyahu isn't worried. He believes that time is on his side. He is looking around him and waiting for something in the Middle East to explode. Perhaps a major crisis in Egypt, perhaps in Syria, perhaps an incident in Iran, perhaps Saudi Arabia will collapse. If so, Obama will be forced to get off our case, because he will be busy with more urgent problems.
In that way, we'll gain another year, or even two. And if meanwhile, another intifada or war erupts, we'll endure that too, as we have until now. The main thing is that we won't withdraw and won't endanger our existence.
After the horrifying murder in the settlement of Itamar, Netanyahu said, "They murder and we build," thereby summing up his worldview. It reminded me of an incident that took place many years ago: a meeting of the Alignment Knesset faction (Labor's forerunner ), with Prime Minister Golda Meir present, in 1973, at the height of the euphoria that preceded the Yom Kippur War.
Adi Amorai was then a young MK. He left the meeting for a moment, and when he returned the usher grabbed him at the entrance and said: Major General Gazit is calling and he wants to speak to Golda. Amorai took the phone and said to Gazit: Golda is about to speak in the faction; she can't be disturbed unless it's urgent. Gazit asked if he could send her a message: "The Soviet advisers along the Suez Canal are leaving."
Amorai approached the first row, where Golda was sitting, and whispered Gazit's message into her ear. Golda turned around and told him with a victorious look: "They're leaving and we're staying."
The rest is history.
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