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Another Impasse to Peace

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his support for a Palestinian state Sunday. The highly anticipated speech came after months of compounding pressure by the Obama administration on Netanyahu, and was clearly the first step toward renewed peace negotiations. However, there were a number of caveats to the speech, Haa’retz reports,

In an apparent reversal of Israeli policy, Netanyahu also declared that he was prepared to see the creation of a Palestinian state, so long as the international community can guarantee that it not have any military capabilities.

“Israel cannot agree to a Palestinian state unless it gets guarantees it is demilitarized,” Netanyahu said. He also said that Jerusalem must remain the unified capital of Israel.

In addition, Netanyahu stated that Israel would refrain from building any new settlements, but would accomodate natural population growth. Demolition of the settlements would only provide outlets for terrorism, he said.

Israel would not accept any situation in which it was forced to exist beside a terrorist state. Every withdrawal from settlement territories would contribute to such terror, said Netanyahu.

The prime minister also said that Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state, and cited the root of the regional conflict to “even moderate” Palestinian elements’ refusal to do so.

“When Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, we will be ready for a true final settlement,” the prime minister said.

He emphasized that the Jewish people have been linked to the land of Israel for over 3,000 years and ruled out the option of granting Palestinians refugees the right to settle within Israeli borders.

Netanyahu said that Israel would not negotiate with terrorist who wish to destroy it, and said that Palestinians must choose between path of peace and Hamas.

Not surprisingly, these conditional (and pointed) statements have been criticized and rebuffed by Palestinian leadership. According to an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu’s fixed position on an “undivided Jerusalem” and his refusal to accept Palestinian refugees into Israel have undercut the gesture.

“Netanyahu’s remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions,” said Nabil Abu Rudeinah told Haa’retz.

A senior Palestinian negotiator called on U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene to force Israel to abide by previous interim agreements that include freezing settlement activity in the West Bank. The alternative, he said, was violence.

“President Obama, the ball is in your court tonight,” Erekat said. “You have the choice tonight. You can treat Netanyahu as a prime minister above the law and … close off the path of peace tonight and set the whole region on the path of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodletting.

“The alternative is to make Netanyahu abide by the road map,” he said, referring to a U.S.-sponsored document under which Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity and Palestinians agreed to rein in militants hostile to Israel.

According to representatives of Hamas, Netanyahu’s refusal to acknowledge the Palestinian “right of return” is a “slap in the face,” senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan said, and warrants the refusal of negotiations.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed President Obama’s approval of Netanyahu’s speech as an important step in the fulfilment of Israel’s security and Palestine’s vision of a viable state.

Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Categories: Israel-Palestine
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