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The Netanyahu Speech And The Peace Prospects

Officials of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah took just about no time to pronounce the death of the peace process. Or, to quote Mahmoud Abbas's top advisers, Bibi Netanyahu is guilty of "burying the peace process." Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post cites several of Abbas's aides seriatim as accusing the Israeli prime minister of ushering in "another round of violence and bloodshed," of placing "restrictions on all efforts to achieve peace," and of being a "swindler and liar." As opposed to these men whose essential fraudulence runs ahead of them and behind them. To say nothing of the blood of Israelis and Palestinians that drips from their fingers.

"Netanyahu's speech," one of the spokesmen of the present and outgoing rais intoned, "is a blow to Obama before it's a blow to the Palestinians and Arabs." I suppose that Barack Obama was not thrilled by Bibi's entire speech. But he took seriously the prime minister's goal of two states as the end-game of negotiations. What's more, according to Natasha Mosgovaya in Ha'aretz, the president's press secretary Robert Gibbs went a bit further than repeating that "the president is committed to two states..." In fact, he didn't leave that hanging at all, adding specifically that these two states are "a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine." Obama has compensated for some of his folly in the Cairo address.

Arab governments throughout the Middle East and over many decades have been obstinate in their rejection of the very idea of a Jewish state. After all, the idea recognizes the nationhood and the peoplehood of the Jews, perhaps the first cohesive nation and people in history, and certainly the most resilient. Frankly, one of the reasons the Arabs of Palestine choke especially hard on the notion of the nationhood and peoplehood of their neighbors is that it exposes the spectral thinness of their own communality, given that it is so much at war with their more rock-like loyalties to tribe and clan, family and mob, even within the armed gangs that do the killings.

I have written many times about the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan which sanctioned "a Jewish state" in Palestine and "an Arab state" in Palestine. Had there not been a Jewish struggle against the British who had betrayed the pledge of the Mandate, had there not been a Jewish state established between the river and the sea, what would have arisen instead would not have been a Palestinian state at all. The territory of western Palestine would have been divvied up between Syria, Jordan, and Egypt and we would have heard squat about the Palestinians and of their nation and history. To be perfectly truthful, it was the triumph of Zionism which seeded the resentments that now comprise Palestinianism.

Yet if President Obama thinks there is a Palestinian nation, so be it. I believe it will fail of its own insubstantialities. I do not believe that Israel should at all impede it. But it should not be able to make war on the Jewish state to compensate for its intrinsic deficiencies, and that is why a demilitarized Palestinian state is the sine qua non of a Palestinian state at all. No one can do anything about its teaching of Jew-hatred to its children, no one. And no one will even try. The Palestinian leadership, such as it is, corrupt and brutal, may believe that this gives strength to the revolution. Alright, go and believe. 

Now, no one loves the Palestinians more than Jimmy Carter. He declared his love for them late last week when the Palestinian Authority honored him with some gold medal... or maybe bronze. According to the Jerusalem Post, Carter said he had loved them for decades. That's also perfectly O.K. with me. But one people he doesn't love is the Jewish people. And that not loving is certifiable. I would actually worry if he did.

Nonetheless and for whatever reason (and maybe even mischievous pique toward Obama), according to a dispatch by Tovah Lazaroff in the Jerusalem Post, on Sunday the former president made an unprecedented statement endorsing the retention by Israel of Gush Etzion settlements south of Jerusalem and near Bethlehem. There are 14 such villages and towns, including 4 kibbutzim. But Carter did not say in his visit to Neveh Daniel that all of them will or should remain in Israel's hands. Still, having conceded that having "been fortunate this afternoon in learning the perspective that I did not have," he for this first time publicly conceded that among the settlements over the 1967 "green line" these would be among those "that I think will be here forever." By "here" he meant Israel. An aide confirmed that while he had never made such a strong statement about the retention of the Gush Etzion settlements it "was in line with his thinking." 

One of Israel's most deluded peace adventurers, the country's president Shimon Peres, said, according to Isabel Kershner in a comprehensive New York Times article, that the prime minister's speech was "true and courageous." Bibi might have lost some of his right-wing. But he has regained his country's center with a perfectly justifiable and rather open response to Barack Obama, the most significant actor in this drama.