Beinart: Netanyahu Never Wanted Peace

By comparing himself to Lieberman, Netanyahu comes off looking like a liberal

Yesterday I wrote about how Israeli PM Netanyahu’s demand that Palestine recognize Israel as a Jewish state was a clever means of making a two-state solution impossible.  The argument went that by insisting that Palestinian recognition of a contentious Israeli self-definition, Netanyahu is issuing demands that he knows will be rejected by the Palestinians.  In this way, the PM can ensure the death of the two-state solution as well as stack the deck so the Palestinians get blamed for being rejectionists.

Today I came across an article by Peter Beinart which argued the same basic point:

[tweetmeme] You could hardly find a better test case than Benjamin Netanyahu. Until last year, Netanyahu had not just spent his entire political career opposing a Palestinian state; he had repeatedly compared such a state to Nazi Germany. He opposed the Oslo peace talks at their inception, and as prime minister in the late 1990s so consistently reneged on commitments made by his predecessors that U.S. envoy Dennis Ross later noted that “neither President Clinton nor Secretary Albright believed that Bibi had any real interest in pursuing peace.” In 2005, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed dismantling Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu resigned from his cabinet in protest. Netanyahu was still on record as opposing a Palestinian state in 2009, when he again ran for prime minister. He hewed to this position when forming his coalition government, even though doing so helped keep Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party from joining his cabinet, thus preventing Netanyahu from assembling the national unity government he claimed to want in order to confront Iran. Through all of this, the major American Jewish groups still refused to publicly entertain the idea that Netanyahu was anything but a champion of peace.

Then, last summer, under intense pressure from the United States, Netanyahu reversed course. In a speech at Bar Ilan University, he announced that he now supported a Palestinian state—before adding two conditions that no previous Israeli prime minister had imposed. The first was that the Palestinians not merely recognize Israel, but recognize it as a Jewish state. The second was that all of Jerusalem remain under Israeli sovereignty, a condition that precluded the offers that Ehud Barak had made in 2000 and 2001 and Ehud Olmert made in 2008. As Livni commented after the speech, “Netanyahu doesn’t really believe that two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, even a demilitarized one, is an Israeli interest. But…he understood that at this stage he needs to utter the words ‘two states.’” America’s Jewish organizations, by contrast, hailed the speech as a sign of Netanyahu’s commitment to peace.

In other words, in exchange for repeating empty words about the necessity of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu created conditions around which such a state would be impossible.

Interestingly, Beinart also argues that the reason the Netanyahu has surrounded himself with such right-wing racists groups is that they make the PM look moderate in comparison:

Extending the settlement freeze might have prompted some of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners to quit his government. But a prime minister genuinely interested in a final status deal would have said good riddance, and brought in Livni’s Kadima instead, thus creating a government composed of people who actually support a Palestinian state. Netanyahu, however, has not done that, just as he refused to create a centrist government during his first stint as prime minister. The reason is that he likes governing alongside racist, pro-settler parties like Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and Ovadiah Yosef’s Shas. They give him political cover to do what he has wanted to do all along: Make a viable Palestinian state impossible.

It seems as though FM Avigdor Lieberman is contradicting Netanyahu at every possible opportunity.  When Netanyahu said peace with Palestine was possible within a year, Lieberman said it was impossible within the generation and said anyone who believed peace was possible was ‘naive.‘  Perhaps this is Netanyahu’s thinly veiled ploy: present himself as a peace-maker by continuously juxtaposing himself to the outrageously radical and racist people within the cabinet.  This way Netanyahu can destroy Palestine and say simply “At least I’m not as bad as Lieberman!”

Photo from the Telegraph

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