Monday, May 23, 2011

Some context for Netanyahu's high dudgeon

Andrew Sullivan's Dish today served up a beautiful catch of the day, as Jonathan Bernstein calls it: a joint statement issued by Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton on 11/11/2010:
The Prime Minister and the Secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that "the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."
Sullivan's conclusion: "What a bald-faced liar Bibi is; and how pathetic that so many fell for his hissy fit yet again." Agreed about the nay-sayers. And I think there's at least a measure of disingenuity in Netanyahu's fury.  But a bit of recent context may be in order. And "bald-faced liar" is I think an overreach.

First, in the runup to Obama's Middle East speech, multiple news reports previewed his proposed parameters for Israeli-Palestinians negotiations in terms identical to these, reported by the New York Times' Helen Cooper on April 21:
The terms of reference could call for Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. For their part, Palestinians would have to accept that they would not get the right of return to land in Israel from which they fled or were forced to flee
That preview is missing a crucial qualifier, present in Obama's speech, as in the Clinton-Netanyahu Nov. 11 statement (my emphasis):
We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.

Blood up and trigger tongues itching in anticipation of  a "call for Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders," Netanyahu and his minions may have simply missed/brushed aside the little detail about swaps.
Second, ever since PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas began floating the notion of a unilateral declaration of statehood to be put to a vote at the U.N. General Assembly this September, and all the more since Fatah's rapprochement with Hamas in late April,the phrase "Palestinian state based on 1967 borders" has been joined at the hip with that anticipated event.

Sensitivity to the term -- or to the very mention of a Palestinian state as what Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a "diplomatic tsunami" -- may therefore be heightened. On April 21,  a group of prominent Israeli intellectuals issued a declaration  endorsing a Palestinian state in language substantively identical to Obama's:  
We the undersigned citizens of Israel call upon all our compatriots, all the members of the Knesset, the Government of Israel and the governments and citizens of the world to join us in welcoming and endorsing a newly born Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders which were formed at the End of the 1949 war and on the basis of further agreed arrangements between the two sides.

This was received (albeit by a pretty small group) about as warmly as Obama's speech:
About 30 rightist opponents gathered nearby and began verbally abusing those attending the ceremony. Television images showed rightists holding a sign calling the leftists ''traitors'' and hurling insults like ''criminals.'' According to some local news media reports, counterprotesters also called the leftists ''Jewish Nazis.''

Afterward, Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on Israelis to ''show responsibility'' and to drop the word ''treason'' from public discourse. ''The country is facing fateful decisions,'' he said, according to a statement from his office. ''We all want an Israel that is secure and strong.''

The declaration and its ceremonial rollout may have aroused particular fury because the declaration seems to suggest welcoming the Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood and negotiating from there. The wording is ambiguous, and I can't find an English-language story that clarifies intent. Haaretz's account suggests no:
Among the organizers and left-wing participants were 17 Israel Prize laureates, looking to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to embark on a diplomatic initiative, ahead of the expected declaration of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders at the U.N. General Assembly in September.
The Daily Telegraph (U.K.) suggests yes -- but the language quoted from the document apparently read aloud by 87 year-old actress and terror victim Hanna Moran is not in the printed declaration:
"We are here assembled ... to welcome the coming Declaration of Independence of the Palestinian State," the document said, calling for its creation, alongside Israel, on the basis of what is "known today as the '67 borders".
Perhaps there is no consensus among the signatories on the question of exactly when and how they would "welcome" Palestinian statehood.  In any case, the response to the document does seem to presage the response to Obama from Netanyahu, his hardline U.S. supporters and opportunistic GOP parrots.


  1. The collusion between Israel and the US is great and will work in favor of Palestinians. We would have gotten shafted in any negotiations that the US “brokered.” We are probably at most years away from Palestinians telling the US that it is no longer welcome to negotiate anything on their behalf. That will be the first major step towards liberation. For whatever reason, no matter how many nobles Israelis like to point out that they have they were too stupid to realize that a 2-state solution would have screwed Palestinians yet benefited Israel greatly, their stupidity worked in our favor too.

  2. The Palestinians were there only one to exist because of the indigenous Palestinians took care of the Ottomans and Britain and they not mean that Jews can steal ethnic Palestine.The the Israeli government has rejected the comments of Obama, where the borders of 1967 unacceptable. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now in the U.S. and meeting with Obama in the White House.i just hope that it will work out.