Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good Job, Bibi

Thankfully, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu held his ground during his meeting with President Obama, and refused to outright accept a two-state solution. However, his tone and language were far more conciliatory and accommodating than the demonized image presented by the mainstream media. (See the video here http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=13530029&ch=4226716&src=news).

Netanyahu made three pertinent points. First, he expressed a desire to start negotiations immediately (he also mentioned that peace should be regional in nature). Second, he stated that Israel has no desire to govern the Palestinians. He wants them to govern themselves, albeit it without certain parties that would endanger Israel (such as Hamas). While this does not explicitly signify an acceptance of a two-state solution, it shows some recognition of the general concept. Third, the Palestinians need to recognize Israel as Jewish state.

This third point is an important one that is often overlooked. Netanyahu is highly criticized because he does not openly accept a two-state solution; however, the equivalent acceptance on the Palestinian side is even more difficult to discern. Why should the Israelis be held to a higher pre-negotiation standard than the Palestinians? This is particularly concerning because many of the Palestinian groups not only do not accept a two-state solution, but vehemently call for the complete destruction of Israel. How is a nation supposed to negotiate peace with such animosity on the other side?

Even if a two-state solution is the only way to peace, and even if Netanyahu firmly believes in a two-state solution, it is prudent for him to pull back. Over the years, Israel has slowly backed down on positions and received little in return. The rampant anti-Zionism prevalent throughout the world has forced Israel to prematurely give up what should only be given up at the negotiating table. This has been a dangerous pattern for Israel, as it leaves the small nation with a weak hand for final negotiations. It is particularly worrisome in light of the fact that the current US President has not demonstrated the overwhelming support that Israel has experienced with past presidents.

For this reason, Netanyahu is right to step back from making a two-state solution a pre-condition to negotiations. Israel must regain political chips to play in the negotiating game (similar arguments can be made for continued settlement activity). It must set the playing field to ensure that negotiations lead to a final, stable peace, rather than a stepping stone to its eventual destruction.

Netanyahu seems to be accomplishing this. His words were elegant. He did not come out with fire and brimstone, but spoke firmly from a strong position. He is willing to work with the Palestinians, but not be a push-over. He will surely be condemned throughout the world. However, he has shown that he will not fold in the face of Obama. For this he must be commended.


  1. I agree that Netanyahu is showing he won't be a push over. Obama has already shown he is, so he is almost a non-entity in any negotiations (he seems to be just some figure head, I don't know like a King or something, LOL) but anyway, Hamas and Ahmadinejad will never accept Israel and Obama had better get that in his mind and accept it. Who knows maybe Obama is a better manipulator, and con man than all of them, he has shown some strengths in this area.

  2. Thanks for your comment!! I honestly don't have much faith in Obama in terms of Middle East peace or policy. He unfortunately thinks that talking to Hamas and Ahmadinejad will bring them into the fold I don't think this is wise as it only serves to legitimate their behaviors and buy them time to amass strength. Hopefully, the moderates in Iran will win the June election, diffusing a potentially disastrous rise of Iran.

  3. Well said. It's very true that Israel historically has only been successful in negotiating using territories captured during defensive responses to offensive threats. It's a bad position to be in, imagine trying to dissuade an attacker by giving them back their gun in return for leaving you alone for the moment. I think Bibi has discovered a new "political" negotiation tactic and Israel has been incredibly bad with the politics of the global stage. By presenting Israel as this "non-negotiable" state and then softening his position while talking to Obama it changes public perception of Israel to "hey, they're willing to talk about it." Now the world will also be concerned with the Palestinian position with that in mind, specifically the position of Hamas which uses the palestinians as pawns to gain global political empathy.


  4. I think that is right on. Israel has not been great at the whole PR thing. Partially, it is their 'presentation' and partially I think it is certain nations desire to demonize them. It is much easier to garner sympathy if you can portray yourself as the underdog. Simply, by the virtue of their economic and military success (built on democracy and innovation) Israel is hardpressed to play the part of the underdog. So, in a world that is all eager to pity the underdog not on his merits, but simply on the fact that he is the underdog, the Israelis are forced to whittle away their position. Netanyahu understands this scam and is trying to remap the playing field. I've always supported him because I think he is the only leader that can bring a true stable peace. The Palestinians know, with anyone else, that they don't need to make a final peace because they can squeeze harder and longer and get more concessions. Bibi draws a clear line and sticks to what is right.


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