Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Word on the street: Netanyahu's speech

Here is a smattering of opinions concerning Netanyahu's "major policy speech":

Netanyahu's self-reflection on CBS: "I'm disappointed because I took a step, not an easy step. And I said, 'Here's what we are prepared to do for peace. We're prepared to have a Palestinian state next to a Jewish state.' I think this is an equitable formula for peace. It's one that enjoys enormous unity in the Israeli public and I think among Israel's friends and supporters abroad and the supporters of peace abroad. So yes, I suppose I'd like a better response [from the Arab world]. And maybe it'll sink in over time. But I think I've opened the door for peace. And I hope that the Palestinians and the Arab world responds to it."

Barack Obama: "There were a lot of conditions, and obviously working through the conditions on Israel's side for security, as well as the Palestinian's side for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the capacity to have a functioning, prosperous state, that's exactly what negotiations are supposed to be about. But what we're seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks."

Foreign Policy Watch: "I never thought – and I still don't think – that Benjamin Netanyahu is the right man to lead Israel out of the West Bank (not to mention bring peace for the region). Not because he is a radical - Sharon was considered much worse before he took power - but because he hasn't got the right character, nor the right ambitions. But he can still play a big role in this process, and if he does, this day will be remembered as his first step. It took Obama only two months to get him there. We should be optimistic." Noam breaks his analysis down further by the issues: negotiations, the "Jewish state" demand, Hamas, settlements, and borders/Jerusalem/refugees.

Haim Watzman @ South Jerusalem: "Bibi is seeking to suspend our disbelief and make us accept what is almost certainly a fiction - that he really intends to pursue a two-state solution to Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. He's concocted a complicated plan to stay friends with the U.S. while continuing to add housing units to settlements... Anything could go wrong. But, I have to admit, there's still a small chance that everything will go right."

Matthew Yglesias blogs about other "limited state" examples similar to those demanded by Netanyahu of a future Palestinian state. He concludes, "As far as Israel and Palestine, however, the more one thinks about it the more this all comes back around to the fact that what matters is deeds more than words. What America needed from Israel before the speech was to stop settlement growth... What's needed today is a stop to settlement growth."

Aliyana Traison @ Haaretz: "It will go down in history, along with the Oslo Accord and the Camp David treat, another historic speech of vague validations and vows to break... Netanyahu said just about nothing... " Traison offers a lucid analysis of preconditions and negotiations: "It is impossible to hold peace negotiations without preconditions. Such diplomacy is subversive procrastination... Israel and the Palestinian Authority both have preconditions; they need to lay them down and abide by them to get the peace process started again." She then offers a step-by-step how-to guide on restarting negotiations and achieving the goal of two states. It's an interesting read, though certainly opens many debatable points.

Avi Issacharoff @ Haaretz comments on the Palestinian response: "The Palestinian reaction... Sunday can be seen as an indication of panic or alternately as proof they are drunk with power." He continued, "Dubbing the Israeli Prime Minister a "conman" mere moments after he agreed to a two-state solution was not an appropriate reaction."

Akiva Eldar @ (again) Haaretz: "The prime minister's speech last night returned the Middle East to the days of George W. Bush's "axis of evil. Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a patriarchal, colonialist address in the best neoconservative tradition." She lambasted Bibi's tone toward the Palestinians: "The Palestinians can have a state, but only if those foreign invaders show us they know how to eat with a fork and knife. Actually, without a knife."

Bitter Lemons also has four well-written, contending essays on the PM's address (two Palestinian, two Israeli). They're well worth the few minutes it takes to read over them.

As for Holy Land Peace: I think the speech was more historical than historic - in that rather than breaking new ground, it simply transported us 16 years into the past.

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