Much of the follow-up coverage from Monday's Obama/Netanyahu meetings pointed to the facts that the Israeli Prime Minister still does not accept a two-state solution. Those reports were at best lazy, at worst just trying to keep the flames under the false inflammatory stories that proceeded yesterday's conference.
Did Binyamin Netanyahu use the words "two-state solution?" No.
Did he show his agreement with the two-state solution? Absolutely.
One look at the transcript of Monday's press opportunity illustrates the point.
For example, this is from Netenyahu's opening statement. He says that Israel does not want to rule of the Palestinians and that if they agree to recognize Israel as a Permanent Jewish State, as opposed to a hunda (temporary peace), there can be a demilitarized Palestinian State:
"....I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward. And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world, if we could, Mr. President, so -- this (inaudible) that one shouldn't let go, maybe peace with the entire Arab world.
"I want to make it clear that we don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We're ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel's security conditions are met, and there's recognition of Israel's legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace...."
During the Q & A the Israeli PM said that he wants to move quickly on negotiations:
"I think we have to seize the moment and I think we're fortunate in having a leader like President Obama and a new government in Israel and perhaps a new understanding in the Arab world that I haven't seen in my lifetime....
"....I think we have -- we have ways to capitalize on this sense of urgency and we're prepared to move with the President and with others in the Arab world if they're prepared to move, as well. And I think the important thing that we discussed, among other things, is how to buttress the Israeli-Palestinian peace tracks, which we want to resume right away, with participation from others in the Arab world; how we give confidence to each other that would -- changes the reality, it changes the reality on the ground, changing political realities top-down, as well, while we work to broaden the circle of peace....."
The Prime Minister goes on to say that we shouldn't read into the fact that he doesn't use the words, "two-state solution"
"....On the front of peace, the important thing for me is to resume negotiations as rapidly as possible, and to -- and my view is less one of terminology, but one of substance. And I ask myself, what do we end up with? If we end up with another Gaza -- the President has described to you there's rockets falling out of Gaza -- that is something we don't want to happen, because a terror base next to our cities that doesn't call -- recognize Israel's existence and calls for our destruction and asks for our destruction is not arguing peace.
"If, however, the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they -- if they fight terror, if they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two people to live side by side in security and peace and I add prosperity, because I'm a great believer in this.
"So I think the terminology will take care of itself if we have the substantive understanding. And I think we can move forward on this. I have great confidence in your leadership, Mr. President, and in your friendship to my country, and in your championing of peace and security. And the answer is, both come together -- peace and security are intertwined. They're inseparable."
So what was Bibi doing, why won't he use those seemingly magic words, two-state solution? The part of the equation that the doomsayers don't understand is that the election of Netanyahu did not signal the end of Israel accepting a future Palestinian state, it did however, bring to a close the endless one-sided concessions that occurred during the Olmert years, they did not bring peace.
Each of the two major parties within the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas, have a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. As recently as two weeks ago, Hamas announced that it will never recognize Israel in any form, one week earlier the supposedly moderate President of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu's refusal to say, officially, definitively the words "two-state solution" has nothing to do with a refusal to agree to a Palestinian state and everything to do with the fact that he doesn't want to start a negotiation with making a simple concession that the other side refuses to make. Doing so, would put Israel at a negotiating disadvantage.
Sammy Benoit is the editor of the Political Blog, The Lid