Israel Pulse

Netanyahu's 'diplomatic solution' another dead end

Article Summary
Denying the occupation to be the cause of the triple kidnapping-murder, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames the dismantling of the Sykes-Picot Middle East and suggests more self-imposed isolation.

On June 29, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at an Institute for National Security Research (INSS) conference titled “In the Absence of Progress toward a Final Status Agreement: Options for Israel.” Inevitably, Netanyahu addressed the abduction of the three teens, who — it was learned just a few hours later — were the victims of a deadly terrorist attack. He presented the abduction as the by-product of the dying Sykes-Picot agreement, which demarcated the British and French areas of control in the former Ottoman territories of the Middle East after World War I, as well as of the death of the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. 

In other words, according to Netanyahu, the murder of the three teens who were hitchhiking in the heart of the West Bank has nothing to do with the Israeli occupation. Brutal terrorist attacks against settlers have nothing whatsoever to do with the struggle between the Palestinian national movement and the Zionist movement. It has nothing at all to do with the increasingly extreme conflict between Jewish and Muslim religious zealots, both of whom believe that land is more important than people. The people responsible for the abduction and murder of the three youths should be sought in the Arab Spring, which brought radical Islam upon us. 

Netanyahu proudly said at the INSS conference, “At the beginning of the 'Arab Spring,' I was among those who were skeptical — to put it mildly — regarding the triumph of liberalism.” Let’s assume that the spirit of prophecy really did descend on Netanyahu. Still, the archives are overflowing with statements by Netanyahu dating from the 1990s blaming the Oslo Accord for bringing a wave of suicide attacks upon us. Following each bus bombing, he claimed that late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Shimon Peres were responsible for the situation — much like the slogan “They gave them [the terrorists] guns" from the same period, which accuses Rabin and Peres. 

How does Netanyahu suggest stopping the forces of radical Islam, which replaced the secular dictatorships? By confining oneself deeper and deeper in the ghetto and sealing every breach in the fence surrounding it. We have set up an obstacle on every side except the east, Netanyahu told the conference attendees. All that is left is to build a fence from Eilat in the south to the Golan Heights. Would a fence along the Jordan River have saved the three teens from the murderers? According to him, the security fence running up to the river is what lies at the core of the two-state idea. And to ensure that there would be no misunderstandings, Netanyahu made it clear that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet would control the Palestinian state for “a very long time.” But haven’t the IDF and the Shin Bet already controlled it for a very long time, or is 47 years not long enough? 

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As the son of a historian, Netanyahu knows how to use precedents from the recent past to show that the presence of foreign forces does no harm to the sovereignty of host states. So, for example, the presence of US forces in Germany does not impinge on German sovereignty, and the same is true for South Korea and Japan. But how many US settlements are scattered around Berlin? Has anyone heard of young Americans uprooting the orchards of South Korean farmers, while the US army is there at the request of the local government to defend the country from its neighbor to the north? Has the United States annexed part of Tokyo, declared that the city would never be divided and built new neighborhoods there exclusively for Americans? 

Netanyahu rejected various proposals by the United States, Europe and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to station an international force along the Jordan Valley for a predetermined length of time. ''Time after time, we have seen how local forces trained by the West to stop the Islamists cannot be relied upon following the departure of those Western forces,'' the prime minister declared. If so, should we rely on ourselves? Not exactly. To increase stability and bring about peace, Netanyahu suggests promoting the creation of an “axis for regional cooperation.” He recommends strengthening Jordan and increasing coordination with Egypt and other countries to stop the spread of radical Sunnis and Shiites into their territory. 

A few hours before Netanyahu spoke at the conference, his government approved a comprehensive plan to bolster Israeli control of East Jerusalem. In many ways, the plan is reminiscent of the diplomatic doctrine of Naftali Bennett, leader of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party, who calls for annexing Area C and the Etzion settlement bloc first. Is it possible that Netanyahu does not realize decisions such as these as well as the collective punishment of the Palestinian population, mass arrests and the funerals of Palestinian youths only help to advance the spread of Sunni and Shiite radicals into the Palestinian territories, and from there into Israel itself?

Does Netanyahu really believe that it is possible to continue building in the West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem while simultaneously pursuing cooperation with the Muslim states? Doesn’t he know that the feeling of desperation is having the same effect on the Palestinian peace camp as it is having on the peace camp of the Israelis? After all, we can assume that were it not for the collapse of the Oslo Accord and the second intifada, the coalition of the right and far-right that he heads would not have returned to power. Those who did not want to deal with Fatah ended up with Hamas instead.

At a conference that took place this week on the Swedish island of Gotland, Salam Fayyad, who served for roughly six years as prime minister of the PA, said that were it not for the bold stand of the Palestinian security forces, the West Bank would have also fallen into Hamas hands.

The day after the conference in Tel Aviv, the website of the INSS stated that Netanyahu presented, “his current diplomatic doctrine.” One would expect a prime minister with the temerity to have his own “diplomatic doctrine” to say that the path to a permanent agreement is the only path to peace. A leader who once promised to advance a two-state solution should have explained how he plans to remove the obstacles along the way to peace. He should have said that walking in place while vainly searching for unilateral paths only leads to more and more tragedies like the triple murder in the occupied territories.

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Found in: two-state solution, sykes-picot agreement, palestine, oslo accord, occupation, kidnapping, israel, benjamin netanyahu

Akiva Eldar is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. His most recent book (with Idith Zertal), Lords of the Land, on the Jewish settlements, was on the best-seller list in Israel and has been translated into English, French, German and Arabic.

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