Sunday night witnessed an earthquake in Israel: Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud–the party that once advocated a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River („this bank’s ours, this one too“)–recognized a Palestinian state. Thus did this ideological party forego not only the East Bank of the Jordan but much of the West Bank as well…
by Yisrael Harel
Even if his coalition holds and his party does not splinter, from herein Netanyahu’s declaration commits not only the political left, which in any case supported him, but the main party on the right. Netanyahu in fact created a very broad Israeli coalition in favor of a Palestinian state. A new consensus has emerged in Israel.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly decided to partition the Land of Israel roughly equally between two states, Arab and Jewish. In the internal Jewish debate that took place on the eve of partition, broad sectors of the public opposed this injustice and proposed to turn it down. Some threatened a violent schism. But when the General Assembly decided on the partition, crowds of Jews took to the streets to celebrate. Even though the decision tore away large pieces from the heart of the homeland, including the ancient capital of Jerusalem (slated to become an international city), they celebrated the partition with singing and dancing. The Arabs, on the other hand, rejected partition outright: they launched a war of annihilation against the small Jewish Yishuv that had agreed to become a tiny country.
Sunday night, barely minutes after the Netanyahu speech, the Palestinians hastened to reject his proposal that in return for Israel’s agreement that they become a state, they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and the national home of the Jewish people.
Just as in 1937 (rejection of the Peel Commission partition proposal), 1947 (as noted, the UN partition), 1993 (they drowned Oslo in rivers of blood) and 2000 (Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David), now too they rejected Netanyahu’s proposal. The late Aba Eban used to say that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Had they accepted Netanyahu’s offer, I have no doubt that there would have emerged in Israel an unprecedented consensus favoring a Palestinian state. The Likud would have split, the right-wing parties would have quit the coalition and a new Jewish coalition would have arisen, comprising half the Likud, Kadima, Labor and Yisrael Beitenu.
True, Netanyahu asserted that this would be a demilitarized Palestinian state, that it would have to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and that it would not be able to enter into military alliances with states hostile to Israel. Is this hard for the Arabs to accept? It was hard for the Jews to accept the 1947 partition decision. Why, then, do they repeatedly reject Israel’s generous offers of a sovereign and independent territorial base?
The answer is simple: more than they want a state for themselves, they don’t want the Jews to have their own state in the Middle East. They have never recognized that right and apparently never will.
This, President Obama, is the kernel of the truth. According to your concept, the objective of the Palestinian struggle is an independent Palestinian state. This is where you are wrong, as are quite a few Israelis. Hence, even if you keep pressuring Netanyahu and squeezing him like a lemon, his next concessions will still not satisfy the Palestinians. It’s not concessions they want, but rather the disappearance of a Jewish-Zionist entity in this region.- Published 15/6/2009 © bitterlemons.org
Yisrael Harel heads the Institute for Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem and writes a weekly political column in Haaretz. He founded the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District) and headed it for 15 years.