Bertolt Brecht wrote, in his poem "The Necessity of Propaganda," "Even the hungry must admit that the Minister of Nutrition gives a good speech." (Translation from the German, Jon Swan. ) It must be admitted that Benjamin Netanyahu gave a good speech at the UN General Assembly. His English was polished, his hand gestures precise and his body language perfect. His propaganda was sweet as honey dripping from his lips. It improves from speech to speech. But the prime minister promised that this time he would feed us the truth, not another campaign speech. A test of this promise seems apposite.
The real main message that Netanyahu brought to New York was that peace is achieved through direct negotiations between the parties, not unilateral measures like appealing to the United Nations. (By his truth, expanding the settlements in territory whose future is supposed to be determined through negotiation is presumably a bilateral measure. ) As a goodwill gesture to the Arab neighbors, Netanyahu quoted "an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand." The truth is that the "saying" is actually a distortion of a well-known Zen koan. An innocent mistake, happens to everyone. The lie is in the "moral" of the saying, according to which the problem is the Palestinians' refusal to clap their hands for peace and talk about security.
As a sage providing support for his own truth, Netanyahu claimed that in 2000 Israel "made a sweeping peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands." It would be interesting to hear the opinion of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak on this "truth," for example on the Palestinian demands regarding the Temple Mount and the Palestinian refugee issue. Netanyahu also invoked his immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, to help substantiate his claims that there is no one to talk to. According to Netanyahu,"Olmert afterwards made an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas didn't even respond to it." This is one of those cases where a half truth is even worse than a lie.
Netanyahu certainly read Olmert's op-ed in The New York Times last week, asserting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas never rejected his offer: "The parameters of a peace deal are well known and they have already been put on the table. I put them there in September 2008 when I presented a far-reaching offer to Mr. Abbas," Olmert wrote.
Netanyahu, who is so concerned about our security that he is even demanding the creation of military bases in the West Bank, claimed the Palestinians are refusing to talk about security arrangements. Really? Let him try to deny that the Palestinians submitted a detailed security proposal, via U.S. envoy George Mitchell. How many times must Abbas repeat, in speeches and interviews, that he is willing to demilitarize the territories and even to permit an international force like the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, or even U.S. troops, to deploy in the Palestinian state.
We must also reveal the truth about "the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border," as Netanyahu said to the General Assembly on Friday. His statement was made soon after Abbas submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon an official request to recognize the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, a state that will live in peace with the State of Israel.
Apparently Netanyahu did not manage to see the application and did not know that it was based on UN Resolution 181, providing for the creation of an Arab state alongside Israel, as well as on the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence, which recognized UN Security Council Resolution 242 and referred to Israel as a Jewish state.
In his speech, Netanyahu exaggerated the danger of the threat posed by Muslim extremists, which he illustrated with the precedent of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip - giving "the keys of Gaza to President Abbas" and receiving Qassam rockets in return. How does one correlate a unilateral withdrawal with handing the keys over to the enemy? Netanyahu easily skipped over the Arab League Peace Initiative, yellowing on the shelf for nearly a decade. In it, all Arab League members, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, offered Israel not only peace and security within the 1967 borders and an agreed solution to the refugee problem, but also normalization of relations.
The Quartet proposal, issued after Netanyahu's speech, refers directly to the Arab League offer and the Middle East road map - which demands an end to building in the settlements and the dismantling of the illegal outposts - as sources of authority for the negotiations. The Quartet expects the two parties to set aside the propaganda and begin showing their hands. If the Palestinians don't pull his chestnuts out of the fire, maybe Netanyahu's truth will finally be revealed.