Forget 1967, Let's Talk 1921

Four Years On, Netanyahu Returns to Bar Ilan More Hawkish Than Ever

'Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace,' says PM - at same podium where he first recognized the two-state solution.

For over a month, right-wing members of the coalition have been telling anyone willing to listen that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to make a dramatic diplomatic move – a permanent agreement, intermediate arrangement or unilateral move that would necessitate a territorial withdrawal, uprooting settlements and establishing a Palestinian state. They sent letters, signed petitions, held conferences and were interviewed at every opportunity.

Sunday evening the prime minister allayed their fears. Almost four and half years after he stood at the podium at Bar-Ilan University and delivered a moderate speech in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution, Netanyahu returned to the same spot to give a hawkish address in which he did everything except announce that he is reneging on his agreement in principle to Palestinian statehood.

“Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace,” he said in his address.

The prime minister went on to say that even if they do agree to these conditions, it will not be sufficient. “After generations of incitement we have no confidence that such recognition will percolate down to the Palestinian people,” he said. “That is why we need extremely strong security arrangements and to go forward, but not blindly.”

Netanyahu went on to emphasize that the “occupation and settlements” are not the core of the conflict. Netanyahu used the word “occupation” with a mixture of disdain and abhorrence.

“When anyone is asked what is the source of the conflict, the standard answer is the occupation, the territories, the settlements. They say that the Israeli takeover of Judea and Samaria following the Six-Day War to a large extent created the conflict, and I ask whether that is true.

“The conflict, if I have to choose a date when it began in earnest, began in the year 1921, on the day Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigrants’ house in Jaffa. This attack, of course, had nothing to do with the territories or settlements. It was against the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel.

“Then came the Partition Plan in 1947, with the suggestion of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state,” he continued. “The Jews agreed, the Arabs refused. Because the issue was not then the question of a Palestinian state – the issue was and remains the Jewish state. Then 19 years later came the stranglehold around us aimed at uprooting us. And why? After all, then there was no occupation.”

Amos ben Gershon / GPO