Nahum Barnea, a widely read columnist for Yediot Aharonot, who accompanied Mr. Netanyahu to Washington, wrote that while the prime minister spoke well, the visit’s results were worrying. He listed them as “a president whom the Israelis suspect and the Arab world scorns for having yielded to the dictate of the Israelis; negotiations that had a slim chance of being renewed before the visit and now have no chance at all; a Palestinian Authority and an Arab League that are more determined than in the past to reach a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on a state within the 1967 borders, which is a resolution that has quite dangerous consequences for Israel.” – Ethan Bronner, NYT
Israeli reaction to Netanyahu’s visit in taking an introspective turn. Most Israelis were hoping for some agreement to move the peace process forward. As Nahum Barnea indicates in the quote above, the looming UN vote on Palestinian statehood is of high concern to many Israelis and their PM came back empty-handed on ways to address that and other issues.
What are the risks here? Everyone knows the US will vote against statehood in the General Assembly and use its veto on the Security Council in support of Israel. However, if the Palestinians are able to garner European support for a UN declaration of statehood, the consequences could be startling. A decisive UN majority, including major European states, in support of Palestinian statehood would set the process in motion. Palestinian statehood would change the character of the peace negotiations. Instead of between occupied and occupier, talks would be between two (nominally) independent states. The UN charter and international law forbid one state to indefinitely occupy another, at least without authorization from the UN. Therefore, Israel would face legal judgments, lawsuits and, perhaps most threatening of all, a new, more powerful divestment movement pattered after the popular 1980s international movement that forced governments, pension funds and other big investors to divest their holdings in South Africa under Apartheid and that was successful in weakening the Apartheid regime.
How can UN recognition of a Palestinian state be avoided? That was a key strategic issue President Obama raised in his speeches and with Mr. Netanyahu. Only the re-start of serious negotiations between Israel and the PLO (Abbas) on the two-state solution would persuade the Palestinians against petitioning the UN. In meetings I attended with President Abbas this month, he clearly indicate his preference for a negotiated settlement and willingness to call off the September vote if the Israelis seriously wanted to negotiate.
Here is a sampling of other Israeli reaction:
A Kadima statement said: “After a difficult week, which peaked in a superfluous clash
with the US that highlighted the terrible relationship that Netanyahu has brought about in
this relationship in the last two years, it is time to begin taking action. After two years of
impasse and rejectionism, Israel is at one of its lowest diplomatic points in its history, its
vital problems are exposed on the table and it is in a worrying process of becoming
isolated” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12).Speaking to Channel 2, MK Shaul Mofaz responded to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: “Netanyahu didn’t say anything new,” he said. “He has
no plan, he is leading us to a conflict with the world in September and if the people of
Israel have a choice between conflict and elections, I’m confident that they will choose
elections” (“Shaul Mofaz: ‘Netanyahu didn’t say anything new’,” Gil Hoffman,
Jerusalem Post Online).
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said: “Netanyahu’s speech was no more than an election ad
and an attempt to create a false impression of willingness to enter negotiations.
Netanyahu’s policy will lead us to international isolation and to a bi-national state”
(“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12).
MK Zehava Galon of Meretz said: “In Congress they applauded, in the Middle East we’ll
cry. Even Netanyahu knows that there is no peace without a compromise on the 1967
borders and dividing Jerusalem” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik Bender et
al., Maariv, p12).Minister Limor Livnat said: “In a brilliant speech, the prime minister presented the basic
principles for true peace while maintaining security for Israel and Israel’s continued
existence alongside a Palestinian state” (“Anger on the Right, And on the Left,” Arik
Bender et al., Maariv, p12) (Likud)
For the first time, a right wing prime minister declares that he intends to give up parts of
Judea and Samaria,” said MK Tzippi Hotovely. “The prime minister should realize that
this is not acceptable to the absolute majority of the Likud faction” (“Anger on the Right,
And on the Left,” Arik Bender et al., Maariv, p12). (Likud)