Monday, June 15, 2009

Netanyahu's Speech

After watching CNN's coverage of Netanyahu's big speech yesterday, I was gently reminded of just how skewed our debate over Israel/Palestine remains. I was watching the recap before I'd seen the speech, and hearing words like "bold", "courageous" and "historic" thrown around, I started to get the crazy idea that something "bold", "courageous" and "historic" might have actually happened.

Well nothing brings you down to earth quite like reading the actual speech. It starts with Netanyahu saying that he is opening talks with the Palestinian leadership without preconditions. Apparently no one told him what "preconditions" mean, because he then proceeded to list off two preconditions that essentially amount to deal breakers.

Mattew Yglesias sums things up:

The quantity of positive press that Benjamin Netanyahu was able to garner yesterday for a speech in which he offered the “concession” of agreeing that Israel should uphold some-but-not-all of its previously made commitments is really pretty astounding. On the key short-term question of settlements, he conceded nothing at all. The number of Israelis living in the West Bank will continue to grow, Jewish-only roads will continue to exist and expand, checkpoints will continue to choke the Palestinian economy, etc.

And on the long-term, territorial details and refugees aside, rather than agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state, he agreed to the creation of a kind of autonomous Palestinian protectorate that he’ll generous call a “state.” The phrase of choice seems to be that he has a vision for the creation of a “limited” state. But what’s a “limited state”? Who lives in one? It’s true that a variety of states without armed forces exist—basically Costa Rica and a bunch of small island nations—but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a state without the right under international law to make its own decisions about national defense.

But while not conceding anything to the Palestinians, he’s invented new conditions they need to meet! The whole thing is clearly a tactical retreat to try to shore up his political position here in the United States. People shouldn’t fall for it.

That last section is dead on. The purpose of this speech was to get people (The US/Obama) to back off. That's how this dance has always worked, and Netanyahu is banking on Obama falling into that same trap. So far Obama hasn't taken the bait, and let's hope that continues.

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