Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech this evening at Bar-Ilan University in Israel will doubtless be analyzed to pieces by all those with infinite patience for miniscule steps on the path to an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
1. He’s ready to start with ‘unconditional’ negotiations with the Palestinians, and then he lays outs his conditions for peace and the establishment of an Palestinian state. How political.
2. Condition 1: The Palestinians have to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people i.e. the Balfour declaration of 1916. Not, please note, Israel’s right to live in peace and security but a Jewish state. This is a central demand of Israel’s new government. I can live with such recognition however it is so brilliantly formulated that , until kosher pigs fly, we can be fairly sure that no Palestinian or other Arab leader will acquiesce to such a demand. If Bibi is trying to make the point that the Palestinians will never recognize Jewish Israel as it sees itself (and that we are therefore condemned to eternal war) he’s probably right.
3. Condition 2: Total demilitarization of the Palestinian state and Israeli control of its borders and airspace i.e. Bibi is proposing that the West Bank should become an Israeli-guarded prison the way Gaza is for the last few years. Presumably if the Palestinians behave themselves, the Israelis will allow fairly free movement of goods and people but the point is Israeli control. No doubt that Israel can legitimately demand not to be attacked but is this the only way to achieve it? If yes, one can hardly call the Palestinian entity a state, maybe a protectorate but who’s protecting? What Palestinian leader could accept such total submission?
Are these opening positions in a negotiation? Maybe, but I’m not sure who’s going to sit down with Bibi to negotiate on this basis. That’s probably what he wanted in the first place. The question is whether Obama will play along. Bottom line for now – no drama, no change, same old stalemate.