Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic speech yesterday afternoon. Now, all that's left is to see how the media and the world to interpret the speech. One headline was that Netanyahu called on a two state solution. On the other hand, his conditions for a two state solution are likely unacceptable from the perspective of the Palestinians. Furthermore, he resisted calls from President Obama to stop settlement expansion.
PM Netanyahu's conditions for a two state solution include a demilitarized Palestine, an Israel with Jerusalem as its capital, Israel being recognized as a JEWISH nation, and all refugee issues being handled by the Palestinians themselves.
From the perspective of the Israelis these are all not only reasonable conditions for a two state solution but mostly non negotiable. Israel isn't going to accept a Palestinian state if it has military capability. That would give Hamas all the room it needed to continue an armed conflict with Israel. Jerusalem is the historical center of all three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. So, Jerusalem is a contentious issue for many nations. Israel must be recognized as a Jewish nation because otherwise, the Palestinians will attempt to flood the country with Arabs and Muslims in order to simply take over the nation through immigration. The right of return is also contentious. By this, most Palestinians demand that ancestors of those displaced in the wars in the 1940's be allowed to return home to what is now Israel. If that were to happen then again, Israel would not be the nation it currently is.
This might be a very shrewd move by Netanyahu. By pronouncing his commitment to a two state solution, he might be viewed as making a serious concession. At the same time, he has laid down markers that Palestinians won't ever agree to. This could give him leverage in being viewed as a serious partner to peace. The Palestinians are likely to reject all of this wholesale. Of course, Hamas will reject it. Abbas can't possibly accept any of this or that would lead to civil war within Palestine. Meanwhile, Netanyahu could leverage all of this to the Americans and moderate Arabs to say that he has made real concessions.
Ultimately, while it is historic to have an Israeli leader pronounce the goal of a two state solution, there is little new here. The Israelis have always counted all of these issues as part of any peace agreement. That's because that's the only way they can be assured it is a real peace agreement. Now, we'll wait and see how it will be played in the world.
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