Regarding the peace process with the Palestinians, which was suspended by the Palestinians last year, Netanyahu covered a number of elements he believes should be in a deal, saying, “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.”
The primary concession offered by Netanyahu was on the matter of the settlements [Israeli communities in the West Bank]. “The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations,” said Netanyahu. “But we must also be honest… In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated.
“We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967 [which would place the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control].”
Netanyahu underscored just how indefensible those 1967 lines are in light of the small size of Israel. “Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide [at its narrowest point]. So much for strategic depth.”
Netanyahu also noted the significance of the territory he is willing to surrender in a peace deal. “This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.
“This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
As for Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to share as a capital for a potential state despite the inherent complications in such an arrangement, Netanyahu refused to divide the Israeli capital but offered an unspecified “creativity.”
“Only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city,” said Netanyahu. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.”
Netanyahu again reaffirmed Israel’s need to maintain a “long-term military presence along the Jordan River” on the eastern side of a hypothetical Palestinian state to prevent arms smuggling. This is an area where there may be some disagreement between him and US President Barack Obama, although Netanyahu’s implied willingness to make such an arrangement temporary may mesh with Obama’s expectations. Netanyahu also again called for a Palestinian state to be demilitarized.
Listing how UN and European elements failed to stop the influx of weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the subsequent rocket attacks from both locations, Netanyahu noted that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank without adequate security measures would be even more disastrous.
“If Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked,” said Netanyahu. “Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.”
Netanyahu again said that the Palestinian refugee issue needed to be “resolved outside the borders of Israel,” meaning they could move to a Palestinian state but not flood Israel. He also noted that the main problem is not territory but Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people.
He called upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to say, “I will accept a Jewish state,” noting that “those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.”
While Netanyahu said he is willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, he will not talk with Hamas. The Palestinian terror group recently signed a reconciliation deal with Abbas’ Fatah party that will see them participate in some format in a new Palestinian government.
“Hamas is not a partner for peace,” said Netanyahu. “Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism… Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.
“So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.”
Met by multiple rounds of applause in Congress during his speech, Netanyahu stressed the significance of the Israel-US relationship, including American support for sanctions on Iran. He also effectively urged them to do all they can to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb, including keeping the military option on the table.
Posted on May 25, 2011
Source: (By Joshua Spurlock, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio, May 25, 2011)
Photo Credit: The Media Line.org
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