Netanyahu greets new reality with old words 19May11 May 19, 2011

Alternative Information Centre -  18 May 2011

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before the Knesset on Monday 16 May was the first of three programmatic speeches he has planned for this coming week. The next two will occur in the United States, one at the AIPAC policy conference (22-24 May) and the second one before a joint session of the US Congress, on 24 May.

Netanyahu’s speech before the Knesset, and apparently in his speeches next week, was a re-enactment of his June 2009 Bar Ilan speech as he set terms for an agreement with the Palestinians: Israel will not withdraw from settlement blocs and settlements will not be dismantled; the Israeli army will continue to control the Jordan Valley; Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to return home; and Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel.

Subsequent Israeli political commentary agreed that Netanyahu’s speech was a move to the Left, as Netanyahu stressed that Israel would maintain sovereignty over large settlement blocs and not over the more isolated West Bank settlements. However, these terms were rejected in the Palestinian political arena.

Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said on Monday that Netanyahu’s statements at the Israeli parliament were “unacceptable pre-conditions, which we reject.”

Abu Rudeineh added that “a peace settlement means that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the state of Palestine,” stressing that “all final status issues should be resolved at the negotiating table and according to international resolutions and the Road Map.”

According to Abu Rudeineh,Netanyahu’s statements “show once again that Israel is not interested in peace.”

If Netanyahu’s terms were to be accepted by the Palestinians, the future Palestinian state would be established solely on lands already controlled by the Palestinian Authority, meaning less than 50% of the West Bank. While the Jordan Valley would be theoretically under Palestinian sovereignty, the Israeli army would have effective control there and Palestinians would have no border with Jordan.

The political objective of Netanyahu’s speeches this week is to counter the Palestinian diplomatic offensive at the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly in September, when the Palestinians plan to request the international community to recognize a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In an op-ed article published in The New York Times, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pointed out that once a Palestinian state is admitted to the UN, it will be ready to negotiate on all “core issues” of the conflict, with a key focus being a solution for Palestinian refugees based on UN Resolution 194.

However, President Abbas also points out that by recognizing a Palestinian state, “the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one.”

Of all the possible scenarios, Israel fears most that of an internationalization of the conflict. Already during the secret Oslo negotiations in 1993, Israelis demanded 1. direct negotiations in which third parties can mediate but should not interfere, and 2. that negotiations will not be on the basis of international agreements.

According to Uri Savir in his 1998 book “The Process: 1,100 Days that Changed the Middle East”, he demanded from the Palestinian delegation to forget about bringing in the United Nations. “Otherwise,” he said, “you will be able to achieve a thousand resolutions, but nothing else.”

19 years later, after endless Sisyphean negotiations, the Palestinian Authority decided to bring in the UN, and the Israeli prime minister is attempting to avoid this nightmare through three speeches.

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