Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a captive audience at the AIPAC conference a speech bursting with jaded clichés. Such cliches have long become a sterile substitute for serious policy. The audience applauded, fittingly, and even gave him a number of standing ovations, as is customary. But anyone looking in Netanyahu’s speech for a hint of real willingness to reach a solution to the conflict – would only find himself up against those fortified walls again.
The main one is Netanyahu’s demand of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to “recognize the Jewish state – no excuses, no delays; it’s time. ... [In so doing] you would be telling Palestinians to abandon the dream of flooding Israel with refugees. … Make clear that you are ready to end the conflict.”
This is a false statement. The Palestinian president and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, have recognized the State of Israel. Israel has also received the same recognition from Egypt and Jordan. The Arab states that signed the Arab Peace Initiative have also offered that recognition if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories.
Abbas has declared day and night that a solution can be found even for the Palestinian refugee problem and that the Palestinians have no intention of flooding Israel with refugees.
Israel has rudely ignored these declarations. Even if the Palestinians decide to consent to Netanyahu’s ultimate precondition, he has said nothing to encourage them to do so. Would he be ready, in exchange, to uproot dozens of settlements and tens of thousands of settlers? Would he agree to divide Jerusalem?
Netanyahu’s outstretched hand for peace could have been a heartwarming gesture, had he not placed in front of it this barbed wire that belies his declarations.
Israelis live in a Jewish state, which is the realization of the Zionist vision. They need no Palestinian recognition. The world also recognizes the Jewish national home, but not the occupation or the Jewish extension that has installed itself in the Palestinian territories and is sabotaging any peace solution.
Israel’s security does not depend on outposts and settlement blocs, but on real peace with its neighbors. Only that can ensure the Israelis’ ability to maintain their Jewish state. The condition to recognize the state’s Jewishness must therefore be removed from the negotiation table.
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