Editorial |

When Netanyahu and Abbas Will Perform a Duet in Ramallah

Netanyahu evoked an enchanting idyll by inviting Abbas to address the Knesset in his UN speech. But if he wants to us to take him seriously, he must begin the peace at home by recognizing Palestinian aspirations.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Netanyahu on a video screen as he speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2016.
Netanyahu on a video screen as he speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2016.Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often complains that people doubt the sincerity of his commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians. He devoted his annual remarks to the UN General Assembly last week to persuading the skeptics. “I remain committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two peoples.” For added emphasis, he invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to address the Knesset in Jerusalem, and himself to address the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

The idea is evocative: Palestinian flags waving on the Knesset plaza, the Israel Defense Forces orchestra playing the Palestinian national anthem “Fida’i” (“warrior”), cabinet ministers Ofir Akunis and Ayelet Shaked cheering Abbas. Then the reciprocal visit: “Hatikva” playing at the Muqata presidential compound in Ramallah, Netanyahu trying out a paragraph or two in Arabic, former Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub requesting Netanyahu’s autograph for his kids, and the two leaders performing a duet of verses from Isaiah and suras from the Koran.

This idyll is preferable to the ping-pong of accusations and burrowing into the past that is typical of Netanyahu and Abbas. Perhaps Netanyahu is secretly preparing a dramatic political move, which would explain his meetings with hundreds of journalists in the past few weeks and the election atmosphere of Israeli politics of late. If we are to believe him, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who calls Abbas an enemy, and the dozens of Likud cabinet members and Knesset members who oppose evacuating the Amona outpost, are simply out of the loop.

But if Netanyahu wants us to take him seriously, and not to treat his speech as just another momentary gimmick, he must begin the peace at home. He must absorb the fact of the Palestinian national movement, recognizing its ethos and its legitimate aspirations, even when they clash with the ethos and aspirations of most Israelis. While Netanyahu was speaking in New York, the Israeli Oscars — the Ophir Awards — were being handed out in Ashdod. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev walked out in protest when the Mahmoud Darwish poem “ID Card” (“Write it down, I’m an Arab”) was read, saying she would not be an audience to his poem.

Darwish is considered the Palestinian national poet, and his poetry expresses the tragedy and aspirations of his people. They are rooted in the conflict, just as Regev’s military career and Netanyahu’s reproving speeches are. But for the prime minister’s vision — that peace will break out and Palestine will be founded — to be realized, Israelis must look in the mirror held up by Darwish, the Galilee native. There are no shortcuts or detours. Regev’s departure, to which Netanyahu gave his support on Saturday, was not only impolite. Anyone who closes his ears to the feelings of the other side cannot genuinely extend a hand in conciliation — and the prime minister’s peace speech will be forgotten like a hollow gesture.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, this month.

Lapid to Haaretz: ‘I Have Learned to Respect the Left’

“Dubi,” whose full name is secret in keeping with instructions from the Mossad.

The Mossad’s Fateful 48 Hours Before the Yom Kippur War

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer