While Israel’s mass media speculate on what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will or not will say in his major policy speech Sunday, one key to his remarks may be the outcome of Iran’s presidential elections to be held on Friday.
A victory by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his relatively moderate opponent would allow the Prime Minister to focus on the Iranian nuclear threat as a larger issue than construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, speaking this week in Washington, pointed out that Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority will not improve relations between Iran and the West. "The mullahs consider the destruction of Israel as just a step on the way to changing the entire world order," he told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The mullahs consider the destruction of Israel as just a step on the way to changing the entire world order.
Although predicting the future in Israel is tricky, Israel’s major newspaper quoted themselves and others and contradicted each other as to whether Prime Minister Netanyahu will or will not accept the “two-state solution.” However, the clearest signal came from Washington, where Strategic Affairs Minister Yaalon spoke.
He jabbed back at U.S. President Barack Obama’s insistence that Israel must accept a PA state and that a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is in the way of peace by stating, "Permanent settlement of the conflict is not easy to achieve as long as the Palestinians do not remove the main obstacle to peace - namely by accepting Israel as a Jewish state."
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused Prime Minister Netanyahu’s offer for an immediate resumption of talks centering on the creation of a PA state. Abbas, who has said he is not setting any pre-conditions, demands that Israel recognize the principle of a PA state while rejecting Netanyahu’s demand that the PA recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”
Yaalon spelled out the Prime Minister’s general emphasis that it is premature to acknowledge a PA state before it is economically and socially stable. The Strategic Affairs Minister, formerly an IDF Chief of Staff, told his audience, "The Palestinian response to Israeli withdrawals has demonstrated time and again that the dismantling of Israeli settlements or the Israeli withdrawal from territories does not bring peace, but rather, more war.”
He called on the PA to implement political reforms, crack down on terrorists, allow more freedom of speech and cease anti-Israeli indoctrination in its school system, a condition of the American Roadmap plan.
Much Ado about Nothing?
Foreign and local media are highlighting the apparent predicament of Prime Minister Netanyahu trying to please his nationalist Likud party without straining relations with the U.S. At the same time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the government coalition Labor party, is pressing to accept the American position, stating that the Likud leader will change his stand. He made the same prediction before Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to the Washington last month for talks with President Obama.
However, a rare balanced analysis by New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner this week implied that the speeches may be a way to pass the time until everyone gives up on trying to untangle the PA-Israeli struggle. The writer conceded that “Oslo is now widely viewed by both sides as a failure” and that a large number of Israelis and PA Arabs “so deeply mistrusts the other that it can fight off an accord.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu may try to make the next move in what is becoming a diplomatic chess game by reiterating support for the Roadmap while pointing out that it calls for future borders of Israel and the PA to be decided by negotiations.