By Dr. Ron Weiser AM
Whilst this opinion piece around PM Netanyahu’s speech to the UN was written before the passing of Shimon Peres z”l it would be a gross omission to not acknowledge the life of one of the most important figures of our time. A man who did so much for Israel and the Jewish People and who played such a central role in so many aspects of Israel’s growth and development. Shimon Peres was a giant whose shadow was cast very widely. We are unlikely to see his like again.
There is no doubt about it, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations a week or so ago was one of his most outstanding – and that is saying something.
To many it sounded like a rallying call by him against Palestinian intransigence, incitement and their decades long refusal to accept a Jewish State of any size in the Jewish homeland.
And indeed it was so.
Netanyahu correctly identified that:
“the source of the conflict is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognise the Jewish state in any boundaries.”
“The real settlements Palestinians are after are Haifa, Jaffa and Tel Aviv”
Netanyahu laid out the following historical truth, when he said:
“Had the Palestinians said yes to a Jewish state in 1947, there would have been no war, no refugees and no conflict.
Now Mahmoud Abbas in his speech said:
“the Palestinians recognised Israel’s existence in 1993, with the signing of the Oslo accords”
And added that:
“Israel must reciprocate with recognition of the State of Palestine and an end to its occupation of the land, so that the State of Palestine can coexist alongside the State of Israel in peace and security and as good neighbors, each within secure and recognised borders.”
So once again we have the stark difference between Israel’s vision of 2 States for 2 Peoples which is in line with United Nations Resolution 181, as opposed to Abbas’ sly and deceitful attempt to convince the world of his agreement to this, whilst steadfastly refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish State, nor giving up the so called Palestinian Right of Return.
2011 was the most recent year that the Palestinians came closest to potentially achieving a State at the UN Security Council without negotiations or the need to compromise.
In the end, they were so unsuccessful that the matter did not even get voted upon. It was still born as soon as the Western world realised that when Abbas spoke he did not mean 2 States for 2 Peoples at all, but in reality 2 Palestinian states side by side, without any Jewish State at all and with no end to the conflict until then.
Whilst it is convenient to Israel’s detractors – Jewish and non-Jewish – to blame Israel for the lack of progress on this front, in 2011 the penny dropped for Israel’s allies that despite their at times frustration with Netanyahu, the Palestinians were recognised as the real blockage to forward movement.
What was being demanded and expected of Israel was to ensure that if at some time in the future the Palestinians would ever agree to a resolution of the conflict, Israel would not have created conditions in the interim that would make such a deal impossible – hence the extreme focus on “settlements”.
This month President Obama released the actual number of settlement units that Israel has built during the 7.5 years of his administration to date, largely all under Netanyahu’s term as PM. These figures were based on the calculations of the anti-settlement organisation Peace Now.
The figures showed that during this time Israel has averaged the lowest numbers of unit construction over the Green Line in Israel’s history and most construction largely in the main blocks at that, areas that Israel will keep under any 2 State deal.
Never the less Netanyahu included in the UN speech:
“Now mind you, the issue of settlements is a real one and it can and must be resolved in final status negotiations. But this conflict has never been about the settlements or about establishing a Palestinian state. It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state, a Jewish state in any boundary.”
In effect this means that the Palestinians can continue to play the victim and can continue to refuse to negotiate with no consequences for delay, as Israel’s allies will keep rewarding them with the offer of 2 States for 2 Peoples indefinitely.
As an aside, whilst ironically this means that in their naiveté the West actually perpetuates the conflict, it may well be the Arab world that gives up on the Palestinians holding them hostage, whilst bigger existential issues face the Sunni states.
However the speech may also be quite disappointing for some of the Netanyahu cheer squad for another reason.
Some of those who hailed his speech the loudest are convinced that in presenting it he has drawn what to them is the obvious conclusion – no Palestinian State.
This is not the case.
What we are really witnessing is the Sharonisation of Bibi, after the Beginisation of Sharon.
After Sharon was elected Prime Minister in 2001, and as the years went on, he became known for the statement
“It looks different from here.”
I have written before that the Disengagement from Gaza in 2005 was not as many postulated, a change in Sharon’s position, but rather entirely consistent with his past behavior and statements. Think 1982 for one.
It really matters not at all whether one believes that the 2 States for 2 Peoples solution is viable, desirable, unsustainable or inconceivable.
Currently, and since 1947, as the world sees it, it is the only game in town.
And what that means for Israel is that whether it occurs or not, Israel cannot be seen to be reason it fails to eventuate.
Fair or unfair as that may be.
If there is a chance for this type of resolution and if it meets Israel’s security needs, it also means that Israel will agree to it. Certainly under Netanyahu and as was the case under Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon and Olmert.
For those doubters note that Netanyahu, in the same UN speech, also said:
“And when the Palestinians finally say yes to a Jewish state, we will be able to end this conflict once and for all.
Israel is ready, I am ready to negotiate.”
Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to the 2 State for 2 People resolution and that the timing apparently, is up to the Palestinians.
No longer credible are those who believe, or want to believe, that Netanyahu will oppose a Palestinian State under any circumstances.
Netanyahu has tied himself not only to the idea of a Palestinian State under ideal circumstances, but ultimately even the concept of a Palestinian State under less than ideal circumstances.
At twenty eight minutes and ten seconds into his UN speech Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following if anyone still remained sceptical.
It is worth noting that both the official Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release as well as the release by the Prime Minister’s own Media Advisor headed their statements with only this one extract from the Netanyahu speech. Just this one headline quote:
“I have not given up on peace. I remain committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two peoples. I believe as never before that changes taking place in the Arab world today offer a unique opportunity to advance that peace.”
And not just any peace but “that peace”.
Risky as that may be.
As the New Year approaches, we contemplate a situation where the leaders of Israel, understanding they live in the real world, will need the wisdom and strength to continue to steer her through rocky waters where even our allies will makes demands they would never contemplate for themselves.
Yet we should never lose sight of the fact that we live in a golden age for the Jewish People – a vibrant, strong, growing and moral State of Israel and a wonderful life for the Jews here in this great country Australia.
Previous generations never saw such a time, nor have any of our ancestors for at least a couple of thousand years.
Over the High Holydays we need to celebrate the glass ¾’s full and pray for the Almighty to continue to bless Israel and the Jewish People.
Shana Tova and Am Yisrael Chai.
Dr Ron Weiser AM
Dr. Ron Weiser is the Zionist Federation of Australia Public Affairs Chairman and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.