Ben White on Netanyahu’s speech
Killing Israel’s peace process, Guardian 15 June 2009
There was nothing surprising about Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech, offering Palestinians a ‘flag and currency’ but little else…
Following on from Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, this weekend it was the turn of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stake out his vision for a way forward in the peace process with the Palestinians.
Ever since Netanyahu announced that he would be making an important speech, there had been plenty of speculation about its content. Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition allies desperately lobbied the PM to stick to his “principles” and some of them expressed confidence that the address would end up being satisfactory to their constituencies. The typical build-up spin was that Netanyahu was feeling “the heat” from both Washington and his rightwing government.
In the end, there was nothing surprising about the speech. EU policy chief Javier Solana was told on Friday by Netanyahu that Israel’s “security demands” with regards to Palestinian statehood included “demilitarisation, control of air space and control of border crossings”. Interior minister Eli Yishai had also already said how he expected Netanyahu to be “very general” and focus on “Israel’s security needs”.
The strategy of demanding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state had already been voiced, and of course, a truncated, less-than-sovereign Palestinian “state” has been a standard Israeli position for some time. One commentator had surmised beforehand that Netanyahu would “use the term ‘Palestinian state’ as the wrapper for his own, far more restricted conception of Palestinian sovereignty”, embracing “a limited, conditional version of the two-state solution”.
Netanyahu’s main focus was to stake out these two “principles” for the peace process with the Palestinians: the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a guarantee that a Palestinian state would be demilitarised.