What Netanyahu Didn't Say in Bar Ilan Speech II

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave the keynote speech at the BESA Conference held in Bar Ilan University last week. Israelis expected - and some feared - that he would use the venue for a major policy declaration. Did he?

Ted Belman,

Ted Belman
Ted Belman

This analysis deals only with PM Netanyahu’s remarks concerning the Palestinian issue.

An overview suggests that he wanted to give assurances to his right flank that he hadn’t abandoned any of his requirements and to convince that world that Israelis really want peace and have striven to achieve it.

While the speech was generally well received, one must look carefully at what Netanyahu said and didn’t say.

The blame, he said, sits with the Arabs, who are not willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

“The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been – and remains – the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.”

“The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People.”

There is no backing away from that now. It is a condition precedent, he declared.

That could well be the end of the peace process because the Arabs will not give such recognition. More likely the parties will continue to go through the meaningless negotiations.

Netanyahu added “For this to have practical meaning, we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel.”

Such recognition would negate the so-called "right of return". There is nothing new in this except for the emphasis. He made it clear that there will be no deal without such recognition.

But then the Prime Minister made a remarkable statement:
“The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People.”

A glaring omission in this statement is our rights which flow from the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo resolution and the Palestine Mandate. This is one card Netanyahu doesn’t want to play. In fact,  after he appointed the Levy Commission to clarify our legal rights, he buried its report which confirms them.

The problem is that the Palestinians are living on our homeland.

“The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, there now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them.”

But their state must be demilitarized.

“the Palestinian area must be demilitarized. No army, no control of air space. Real effective measures to prevent arms coming in, not what’s going on now in Gaza. The Palestinians cannot make military treaties.”

Nothing new here, but it is nice to hear it again.

Apparently Netanyahu has made a commitment to President Obama.

“I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”

What, if anything, can be read into this? Is Israel prepared for new borders based on the Armistice lines with swaps? Is she prepared to expell 150,000 Israelis? More? Or will it insist that more land is need to have “defensible borders” as promised by Res 242.

And what about Jerusalem?

“Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders with Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel.”

Does Netanyahu mean “all” of Jerusalem? The Jerusalem issue alone is enough to scuttle an agreement.

While Netanyahu challenged Abbas to decide on the path of peace or the path of Hamas, he did not demand an end to incitement and terror. Many in Israel believe that until the incitement stops and the support for terror ends, there should be no negotiations and no prisoner release. Netanyahu, disappointedly, is prepared to tolerate such activity, for whatever reason.

None of this is new. It has all been said before by Netanyahu. But I believe this is new:
“The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then, we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements.”

Sounds like a permanent building freeze to me. Is he including Jerusalem or E1? He doesn’t say.

Netanyahu took pains to describe the close connection of the Nazis and the Holocaust to Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, the undisputed leader of the Palestinian national movement in the first half of the 20th century. But he failed to expand on the influence he had on The Palestinian Movement.

To get the full story, watch this video, created by Francisco Gil-White.