As predicted on these pages the other day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech gave President Obama something that he wanted, an Israeli call for a Palestinian State.
At the same time Netanyahu went on the offense by changing the way the “game is being played. Instead of a Palestinian State being the “given” and the argument being about the form the state will take, the State is the negotiation chip and the discussion will be about what the Palestinians have to do to get a state. Bibi is trying to ensure that Abbas will have to make concessions before he even gets to talk about the specifics of a state, instead of the Olmert approach which was to make one-sided concessions first, ask questions later. The ball has been thrown into the Palestinian court.
But make no mistake about it, much of the speech was intended to be a smack in the face to President Obama for the revisionist observations made during his Cairo Speech two weeks ago.
Obama said, settlements are part of the problem. He also says the Arabs must recognize Israel’s right to exist but omits the fact that Israel is the Jewish homeland.
To answer the President, Bibi gave Obama a history lesson:
….In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest and forthright answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict?
In his speech to the first Zionist Conference in Basel, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, said about the Jewish national home, “This idea is so big that we must speak of it only in the simplest terms.” Today, I will speak about the immense challenge of peace in the simplest words possible.
Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.
In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.
The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.
Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.
The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel’s independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.
All this occurred during the 50 years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria .
Netanyahu then takes another swipe at the settlement issue by attacking the myth that “land for peace” works:
….Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.
We tried to withdraw with an agreement and without an agreement. We tried a partial withdrawal and a full withdrawal. In 2000 and again last year, Israel proposed an almost total withdrawal in exchange for an end to the conflict, and twice our offers were rejected.
We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted dozens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children.
The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.
Obama’s Cairo speech made demands of Israel and requests of the Palestinians. Bibi went after that next:
…Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side.
The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: “Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace.” I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.
The UN Partition Plan, UN General Assembly Resolution 181, did not create Israel, It created Independent Arab and Jewish States. The President forgot that in Cairo, but Bibi reminds him today:
Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
And for the President’s suggestion for a resolution to the refugee problem, Netanyahu has a solution, hey we absorbed the Jews kicked out of Arab lands:
…To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.
Therefore, justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel’s borders. On this point, there is a broad national consensus. I believe that with goodwill and international investment, this humanitarian problem can be permanently resolved.
One of Obama’s biggest shots at Israel’s legitimacy in Cairo was repeating the Arab suggestion that a Jewish State was created becase of the Holocaust. Bibi goes after the President here also:
…. let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.
The right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2,000 years, the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust – a suffering which has no parallel in human history.
There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel had been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.
…But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: This is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.
Oh and about that internationalized City of Jerusalem where everyone can pray that Obama called for:
…Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.
While President Obama refuses to recognize previous agreements between Israel and the United States, the Prime Minister will:
The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.
But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.
In Cairo, President Obama reached out his hand to Hamas, Prime Minister Netanyahu put that into perspective, reminding the President that Hamas is a Terrorist Organization (you know, that word that Obama does not like to use):
If the Palestinians turn toward peace – in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel – we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.
Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will
Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.
Two weeks ago the President of the United States showed his bias against Israel and his lack of knowledge of world history, today, the Prime Minister of Israel reminded the President how wrong his Cairo speech was.