What Netanyahu Wants
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a man both ends of the Israeli political spectrum love to hate, but for different reasons. The Israeli left hates him because they can’t unseat him and because he is, in their minds an obstacle to peace. They don’t believe that he wants the two state solution. The Israeli right hates him because he makes all kinds of rightwing promises but fails to deliver. They believe him when he says he wants a two-state solution which they reject. But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu’s views on the peace process are supported by mainstream Israelis.
Americans see him as a right-winger, which doesn’t endear him to the left including Jewish Americans. They see him as an obstacle to peace, a proponent of the hated settlements and the occupation and an opponent of their beloved President.
My takeaway from Netanyahu's conduct in the last two governments which he headed and from his remarks in the US to the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is as follows:
1. He really is committed to the Bar Ilan speech delivered in 2009, i.e., two states for two peoples with Palestine demilitarized and Israel in security control for the foreseeable future.
2. He is ready willing and able to meet with Abbas to negotiate a peace agreement, and has been all along, but Abbas refuses.
3. The refusal by the Arabs to live in peace with the Jews or the Jewish state has been demonstrated prior to 1967 going back fifty years. During this period of time there were no settlements and no "occupation." Accordingly, the settlement construction and the occupation are not the cause of the failure to achieve peace as the left alleges. The left chooses to ignore that the Arab leaders don't attribute their resistance to these things but to the existence of Israel.
4. If the Arabs would agree to accept the Jewish state and agree to live in peace with it, the settlements would not be an insurmountable problem nor would the border demarcation. Netanyahu suggested in his conversation with CAP that Israel might cede 95% of the land.
5. He also said that he knows of no way to divide Jerusalem and accordingly it must remain in Israel’s hands.
6. Israel, by constructing apartments in the settlements is not gobbling up Palestinian land as alleged. The facts are that the settlements sit on 0.3% of the land and no new settlements have been authorized in the last 20 years. Netanyahu has built fewer units per year than each of the last five prime ministers built. All these units are within the established settlements and accommodate natural growth of the population.
7. The lands are disputed lands, not Palestinian lands, yet the international community doesn’t complain when the Palestinians build many thousands of units. They only complain when Israel wants to build hundreds of units.
8. The Levy Report holds that there is no occupation according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and that the settlements are in fact legal. Netanyahu believes that such legalities are irrelevant and mentioning them is counter-productive. He does not want to base his case on legalities but on his willingness to negotiate a deal. Rather than appear as a proponent of greater Israel by stressing her legal rights to the land, he would rather keep the focus on the refusal by Abbas to negotiate.
9. Rather than seeking a "land grab" he is content to wait for the Palestinians to come around to accepting the Jewish state of Israel and Israel's security role west of the Jordan River. He really doesn't want a single state nor a bi-national state as he always proclaims. He is hopeful that Arab countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may decide to tell Abbas to accept some kind of formula that would satisfy Israel. After all they need a strong Israel now rather than a weakened Israel.
10. President Obama has publicly accepted that negotiations are out of the question now. So both he and Netanyahu are jointly negotiating what will replace negotiations. Obama wants Israel to only build in the settlement blocs and to cede much of Area C, over which Israel has full control pursuant to the Oslo Accords, to the Palestinians. He also wants Israel to stimulate economic growth for the Palestinians. This is what is referred to as Plan B.
11. So in effect, Plan B is being negotiated by Israel and the US whereas Plan A, the peace process, was intended to be negotiated by Israel and the PA.
Whether the US and Israel can come to an agreement on Plan B remains to be seen. But beyond that, the US and Israel are attempting to come to an agreement on how to enforce the Iran Deal and how to stop Iran’s aggression throughout the Middle East. And then there is the problem with Russia.
Who’s got time for the peace process?