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.