Thursday, June 18, 2009
Israel: Netanyahu feels the heat
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has at last acknowledged, with caveats, the need to establish a Palestinian state. Actually, Netanyahu's Palestine is primarily caveats, with a dash of state thrown in for appearances' sake.
In his speech last Sunday, the prime minister failed to address the continual growth of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank, where close to 300,000 Israeli settlers live. The Palestine that Netanyahu envisions must steadily shrink to accommodate the growing number of Israeli settlers in its midst. It would be a collection of barely contiguous cantons.
By refusing to address the growth of the settlements, Netanyahu has avoided a fight with the hard-right forces in his governing coalition. Yet he has asked the leaders of the Palestinian Authority to accept a state whose contours no Palestinian could willingly accept. He demands a Palestine with no army, yet also demands that the Palestinian Authority suppress Hamas as a precondition for negotiations with Israel -- something, as my American Prospect colleague Gershom Gorenberg has pointed out, that the very well-armed Israeli army has been unable to do.
By refusing to take on the settlers, however, Netanyahu may be cruising for a clash not just with Israel's longtime critics but with its longtime supporters as well. The Obama administration, Democrats on the Hill who have long championed Israel's interests, and a clear majority of American Jews all view the growth of the settlements as a major impediment to a two-state solution and, therefore, a threat to Israel's long-term survival. More>>