Netanyahu’s ‘Yes’ on Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a bold step toward peace on Sunday. Speaking at Bar Ilan University’s commencement exercises … Continued

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a bold step toward peace on Sunday. Speaking at Bar Ilan University’s commencement exercises in Tel Aviv, the Israeli PM departed from his past positions and redefined Israel’s stance on a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

Rising to calls from the Obama administration, the Palestinian Authority and a few members of his own governing coalition, Netanyahu declared that “Israel embraces the idea of a Palestinian state, would not build any new settlements and would refrain from expanding existing Israeli communities in the West Bank.”

But it’s hard for some people to take yes for an answer.

There are already those among both the Palestinians and members of Israel’s hard left who are shouting about the insufficiency of Netanyahu’s move. And not surprisingly, they are balanced by those on Israel’s hard right who see the Prime Minister’s remarks as a total betrayal. To my mind, that’s a sure sign that he is on the right track, if not yet at the appropriate stop for this train.

The question now will be this: are all sides prepared to enter a conversation based not on what is True, Just, Fair or mandated by God, (because about these things, we are not likely to agree any time soon) but based on what works? That is all that matters, if peace and security — and not the triumph of a particular ideology, theology, history or some concept of honor — are the real goals of each side. These are all abstract ideas, which however important they may be, have a proven track record of being more effective at war-making than peace-making, in this conflict at least.

But, because we know that these ideas are so important to so many swept up in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, it is vital that those of us who care about them, work as hard as possible to locate how truth, justice, fairness, and even God will be honored by making the peace we need instead of holding out for the final solution to which some on each side aspire. That is what defines the ability to change without feeling that one has betrayed one’s self or their most deeply held values.

Netanyahu took a tremendous chance last night. He stood before the world and changed. That is hard for any of us, and especially so for politicians who are usually rewarded by playing to their base and assuring them that the one thing which they will never need to do is change. But peace will be a change. It will redefine the region and with that redefinition will come shifts in identity, and ideology which are hard.

What does it mean to be a lover of the biblical land of Israel who is willing to cede land? What does it mean to wear a key around one’s neck even if one will never return to the house that goes with it? These are tough questions, but Benjamin Netanyahu seems ready to wrestle with them. Are other leaders in the region? Are we, who support one side or the other in this conflict? If we are, peace is not only possible, it’s likely.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • Nikos_Retsos

    For God’s Sake, we don’t live in the epochThe Oslo Accords for peace in Palestine in 1993 were also called “a step in the right direction,” and at that time it really was. But after 16 years of bloodshed, and endless negotiations at a “turtle pace,” as Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat correctly scoffed, the Middle East peace process isIt is a shame for the U.S. and the E.U. to have received Netanyahu’s speech as an acceptable “first step.” We actually have had so many since 1993, such as Bush’s “Road map” first step,” and a host of other initiatives that were also called “firt steps,” but the process has always fell quickly backwards. Now we have an “Indian Reservation enclaves model” by Netanyahu for Palestinians as a “first step,” and the U.S. and the E.U. say they can live with – but the Palestinians certainly cannot. Obama started a race for peace in the Middle East with a promise to Arabs and Muslims. Now comes Netanyahu and replaces Bush’s “Road Map” with his Indian Reservations model for a free Palestine “Road Block.” Now, let’s all of us sit back and try to digest how the new “first step to nowhere” peace plan for Palestine will work where all similar past steps have failed! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

  • fnlorrain

    Good comparison Nikos,

  • grashnak

    It sounds a little like someone moved into your house, punched you in the face repeatedly, locked you in the dog house in the yard for years, and then offered to let you continue to live in the dog house as long as you promised to stop complaining.

  • bigbrother1

    This wasn’t a “yes” to Palestine, and you know it, Hirschfield. Bibi knows as well as everyone else that a disarmed Palestine is a Palestine at the complete mercy of Israel. Nobody in their right mind would accept such a proposal. And Bibi knows that as well as you do.It’s disgusting to see a grown man use a newspaper website to lie through his teeth and act as if his favorite country was being magnanimous. Try to learn some shame.

  • bevjims1

    I think it is clear Netanyahu is being disengenious. After all, he has prevented UN observers in occupied territories before. Just how would he expect a “demilitarized” Palistine to be verified? I see Netanyahu, like Ahmedinejad, seeking one thing while saying another. The settlement creep has obvious goals, to eventually annex the West Bank as part of Israel. As long as evidence of this path exists the US should use its financial might and link funding for Israel with settlement removal. The goal needs to be a free Palistinian state in the entire West Bank with borders negotiated. The current patchwork created by settlements prevents this from happening, unless the settlers want to live within a Palistinian state. If you need a better explanation of the problem see the maps at this website:

  • former_omnisavant

    I’ve just recently learned some amazing stuff about the Israeli/Palestinian situation where I no longer take the assumed for granted. I’ve written it at:

  • Linksmann

    Bibi’s offer is merely yet another effort to palm off the creation of a Palestinian bantustan and call it a free and sovereign state. Only fools or knaves will fall for Bibi’s proposal. Anyone with any sense or knowledge of history will appreciate it for what it is – a lie.

  • BIGELLOW

    The first step to success involves having a positive outlook.

  • mma_Okochua

    Now that Netanyahu has made some concessions to Obama, let’s see what the Palestinians will concede. Or perhaps you critics will argue that Israel has made no concessions at all, in which case you objectors will cry foul again if Mr. Netanyahu were to withdraw his concessions. I think this matter is a lose-lose situation for Israel as far at the Obama left is concerned.

  • foxjh

    Obama has already gotten the peace process started in earnest, not just giving bad advice on how to fight wars as the last administration did. He has also gotten the Iranians fighting among themselves on the way to something approaching real democracy, not just spending $3T enhancing Iranian influence in the Mideast. And he has only been at it 5 months (whereas the last guy spent 8 years running us into the ground). The man is amazing.

  • octobertea

    You people are pathetic. This is not a major concession at all. It’s not any concession whatsoever. He knows damn well that calls for a demilitarized Palestine will be rejected – so there’s no political risk for him at all. He might as well have said that they can have independence, but they have to change the name of Palestine to Allah Stinks.

  • LucyLou1

    What a scam. Netanyahoo is brilliant at determining what rights others are not allowed to have. Like the right to self defense, any of the ancient shrines (Jerusalem) or anything that might be unmanageable by Israel. Palestine gets a state, but they lose any rights associated with having a state. This is a big step. Backwards. I hope Americans aren’t dumb enough to buy it. And I hope Obama doesn’t cave to Jewish pressure like America always does.

  • corticus

    A “state” must have the following or it is not a “state”

  • 54D675FVGUB67I

    Neti’s comments are a lie. Israel is not going to give up the West Bank to a neutered Palestinian State or even to a Palestinian Bantustan because the West Bank is more important to Zionists than what is Israel today. In 2000 years it will never happen.

  • foxjh

    Denying them the right to a defense force is more symbolic than anything, probably to placate the Israeli right wing. They would still be able to run their own internal security. And they could not withstand an Israeli attack in any case. So who else would they defend against? Jordan?

  • sayhuuraw

    Mr. Hirschfied: You have misquoted Netanyahu. He did not say that Israel “would refrain from expanding existing Israeli communities in the West Bank.” Check your source for the text of the speech.

  • glpincus

    I watched Netanyahu’s entire speech twice. I see both sides of the argument… Netanyahu made some progress by accepting the possibility of an independent state, but really the entire peace process has taken a huge step backwards because of Netanyahu’s more radical position. We are still a very long way off from peace. The possibility of a Palestinian state is good, but Netanyahu’s conditions were so strict that it simply won’t happen. I believe his demands are reasonable (Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, stop firing rockets…), but he promises too little in return (no Jerusalem, a demilitarized state, supervised control of airspace…) He tried to put the pressure back on the Palestinians to make the first move, but really it is him that needs to consider his position more thoroughly. All settlement growth must stop completely. I don’t understand why this has been made such a complex issue when it is really quite simple. The settlements are illegal by international law. If anything should be done with them, it should be to gradually re-integrate the population into Israel! If there is to ever be a peace deal, it will most likely use the 1967 borders, so both sides should be preparing for that. Netanyahu made a small step by acknowledging the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, but he has a lot more work to do before real progress can begin.

  • rabbibrad

    Sorry ‘sayhuuraw’, Netanyahu may not have said what you want, or you may be upset that he did (we do love to have well-defined enemies, don’t we?), but nothing was misquoted. I listened to the talk in Hebrew and my own understanding accords with the official translation of the text.

  • clebarron

    This amazes me I hear a lot of equating Palestinians to the Indians, and how awful it would be if they lived under the Israeli gov.. I just have on thing to ask from all of you claiming a Palestinian right to that land prove it back it up with hard concrete historical proof or stop with the Indian analogy..give me a break

  • Sashland

    all it takes to stop the violence and have peace is to….Lots of squawkers above want to blame Israel for all, yet can’t acknowledge that the genocidal policies of arafat and hamas, seeking the total destruction of Israel and all its Jews, might have anything to do with the failure to obtain peace.The key to peace will always remain the same: renounce violence (again, but stick with it this time). So long as palestinians seek to murder Jews they will remain deservedly stateless. No amount of propaganda will obscure that fact from honest observers.Someone needs to ask Carter: No Jewish state?; are you against all islamic states? Why the double-standard? the ones seeking REAL apartheid in the middle east are the islamists who insist that no jews can live in islamic territory. No Hebrews allowed in Hebron? Who’s racist now…

  • burf

    What’s fascinating, is how the anti-Israel crowd will NEVER give credit to Israel, when it is due.

  • saelij

    What other proposal was Netanyahu supposed to give to the Palestinians other than the one he gave? How many times has Israel turned over territory only to see the Palestinians replace order with chaos and violence directed at Israel. This is no longer about who is right or who is wrong. Israel is the dominant power that is holding all the good cards. If the Palestinians want a state, they need to take the Israeli proposal and go from there. They turned down 95% of what they wanted when Clinton tried to arrange a peace settlement. The sticking point was and and will always be Jerusalem – the Jews are not going to give it up or share. Good thing Arafat turned down the last plan under Clinton; if they had accepted it, Israel might have been destroyed by now.

  • Diane10

    former_omnisavant: Your article is missing some important information:1) We already have a two state solution. The same mandate that created Israel also created Jordan as the Palestinian state. 2) Israel didn’t kick out her Palestinian citizens prior to the first war. The Arab nations told the Palestinians living in Israel to leave, that they would destroy Israel, and would treat any Arabs they found still in Israel as traitors.3) The above threat continued as the attacks on Israel did, keeping the refugees from going back.4) In 60+ years, the neighboring oil rich Arab nations who created the refugee camps (#2) never made any effort to assimilate the refugees. I’m not suggesting the Palestinians give up their identity, only that they should have received help with education, job training, and in finding housing. Instead, they were kept in the most inhumane conditions, just so that they could be held up to the world as those poor Palestinians who suffer so. They may get little help from the Arab nations, but they are told that Israel is the reason for their suffering, and they do get plenty of guns, ammunition and explosives, are taught that suicide is their contribution to the effort and set against civilian targets. They send pregnant women and children out as suicide bombers and even use their own people as human shields. This is what the Arab nations have done for these people. Could you imagine a refugee camp inside the US remaining in existence for 60 years? From the beginning, teachers and medical professionals would find their way to the camp or camps. Medical supplies would be donated. Money would be made available for education, job training and housing. Withing a few years, the camp would be gone.Maybe you need to do some more research, and this time, try looking beyond a single, slanted source.

  • sayhuuraw

    Rabbibrad: Please post a link to the official translation that accords with your understanding of the talk in Hebrew. Thank you.

  • onestring

    The United States will be a target of terrorism until Palestinians have a sovereign nation of their own with the capital in East Jerusalem. Because we taxpayers in the US supply Israel’s financial life-blood, and the terrorists know it.DO NOT TRUST THE WORDS OF THE EXTREME FUNDAMENTALIST DOMINATED LIKUD PARTY.SIMPLY WATCH THEIR ACTIONS.We can no longer afford to support Israel if Israel’s behavior is going to cost us $$ trillions more than we’ve already spent fighting terrorism.It is time for Israel to end the occupation, end 100% of the settlements, and allow a Palestinian State.It is long overdue for Palestinians to REJECT HAMAS if they really do want their own nation. You can’t have both hate and freedom in the same government.

  • gkatzlic

    Actually the Israeli PM was quite fair. A serious Palestinian leader would grab the opportunity, build a country and never look back. He would also build a psychological and political bridge to Israel allowing his people to prosper from trade with Israel who has a much better GDP per capita.Netanyahu told his hard liners yesterday their dream of Great Israel from the Mediteranean to the Jordan River isn’t going to happen. Are Abbas and Henya willing to do the same and tell the Palestinians worldwide that they are not coming back to Jaffa? Can Arab leaders worldwide sit near the table and provide help instead of hiding behind their contempt to the concept of a Jewish State in their region? What is so offensive behind a Jewish state? Don’t we already have Muslim state? (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt)

  • thomasmc1957

    Declaring Israel to be a “Jewish State” is absolutely no different from Hitler declaring Germany to be an “Aryan State.”

  • Ralph4

    Netanyahu chooses “Not Peace” once more. No one outside of the Israel Lobby and AIPAC really believes that anything meaningful was “offered”.It remains to be seen whether President Obama has the moral fiber to do what past Presidents have failed to do “Insist that the illegal Israeli settlements be stopped and the existing ones disbanded”.Enough cuddling of the Apartheid Israeli state.Do as we say or we withold US funds!

  • grashnak

    @Clebarron:” I just have on thing to ask from all of you claiming a Palestinian right to that land prove it back it up with hard concrete historical proof”What exactly constitutes a right to live somewhere if not the centuries long occupation of the place?I’m not sure what proof could be produced beyond the fact that these people have been living there for hundreds of years. What exactly would satisfy you?

  • Jean_dNalgar

    Why not ask a Palestinian instead of an Israel sycophant? I daresay Netanyahoo’s “bold step towards peace” was hardly seen as anything more than forced posturing…

  • Diane10

    Hmmm… So if I decide that something that’s been important to you for the longest time is also important to me, that automatically gives me rights to it?Jerusalem has been the Jewish holy center for over four thousand years. It’s the City of David. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt seven times, each time it was rebuilt by Jews. It was holy to the Jewish people for two thousand years before Christians decided it was holy to them, and for two thousand six hundred years before Islam decided it was their holy place as well. Besides, The Israelis have shown themselves to be the best guardians of the city. They don’t deny access to people of other faiths, or desecrate any other faith’s holy things. The Dome of the Rock sits on the cite of the Holy Temple, something the Jewish people long to rebuild. Yet I have never heard any thing about removing it so the Temple could be rebuilt. Has everyone forgotten the desecration of the surrounding Jewish cemeteries and other atrocities done by Jordanian soldiers when they had control of the city?Jerusalem is the THE Jewish holy place. To Christains amd Moslems, it is but one of their holy places. It was the Jews who made Jerusalem holy, and between the Jews and the Palestinians, it’s the Jews are are most willing and able to share. The care of Jerusalem belongs to the Israelis.

  • Chicago1

    I am glad to hear Netanyahu say these words, but this article is a silly example of the same old that will not work.He went on to say that it must be a disarmed state (no plans for Israel to disarm, apparently), and that ‘natural growth of settlements’ to accomodate growing families must be allowed. (Nothing said about the natural growth of the Palestinian families they will displace. I guess their families don’t count.)One commentator said Netanyahu had said enough to keep Obama from getting angry, and that that was his goal. Sounds about right.I don’t think these people are serious enough yet, on both sides. Neither have the stones to stand up to their own hardliners. Everybody else gets to pay for them.

  • former_omnisavant

    To Diane10:

  • corticus

    This article is not about the rights of either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

  • chinkjunior

    I think the plethora of comments and vitriol supports Rabbi HIrschfield’s thesis- the people on this blog actually don’t want to start NEGOTIATING, but would rather throw epithets. Negotiating means painful choices- about jurisdiction in Hebron, Jerusalem, refugees, etc.- that BOTH sides will have to perform. So it’s easier to be a bunch of rejectionists and say that Bibi did nothing, rather than CALLING HIS BLUFF. Man, if I was a Palestinian negotiatior, I would say, OK, give me the state that Barak offerred Arafat at Camp David, TODAY. Then you will see the truth. But to decry yesterday’s speech is simple fear-mongering

  • dandyhuffman

    Isralestine is coming and its coming soon. War will settle all these territorial questions now perplexing the middle east. God’s promise to Abraham will be fulfilled no matter how the rest of the world rants and raves.

  • Diane10

    former_omnisavant:By your reasoning, America should give everything back to the American Indians. In all the posts I’ve read that mention the American Indians, that one point has been conveniently forgotten.To the Jews, the land was given to them by God. You believe that’s a fantasy, but you have no more proof of that then the Jews have of their belief. Certainly since the Diaspora, Jews have continued to consider Israel their homeland, and themselves a people in exile. The land was stolen from them, whatever happened after that, it was stolen land that changed hands. Now Israel has much of it back. I find that in itself to be amazing. Their continued existence even more so. Maybe they’re right, and God has decided it’s finally time?

  • abhab

    Diana said;They (Israelis) do not deny access unless you are an Arab or a Jerusalemite Arab younger than 50.

  • safiyah111

    A truly courageous stand would be to insist on Democracy that included all those who felt they had a right to part of a unified nation state called Israel. Just imagine it, Palestinians and Israelis fighting it out in within the best traditions of a Democracy-at the ballot box! Most people who have weighted in on this don’t seem keenly interesting in any notions of a ballot box that includes the preferences of all the people who have a right to call Israel their home. A single State cast in the mold of every other modern State (with the exception of Israel) where someone’s religion isn’t the beginning and sadly the end of the discussion about their citzenship should be what we are all praying for.

  • BOBSTERII

    Looks like Obama’s pressure is working. One more squeeze and Zionists will let it go even more. The only thing that is growing in Israel is military. Why even talk to Israel or accept anything from their goverment if only good they have is good for the war. I think its time we finaly tell them to get off our backs and deal with their problems on their own or do whatever we tell them to do. The main problem is; why is USA supporting Israel so much, when Israel is not even close to some democratic country. (OR MAYBE IT IS SOME PEOPLE FROM OUR GOVERNMENT ARE WORKING FOR ISRAEL, NOT FOR US)

  • former_omnisavant

    Diana10: You can look over most of the globe, particularly the Americas and Europe and you will find land all over that used to belong to someone else. That argument has no power. To say that “God” gave the Jews the land has no legal force in any court, UN, EU, USA. The only argument that works is–who can take and hold the land. The Jews are doing it only because the US has pumped in billions in aid over the decades. If the US quite supporting Israel, the Jews would lose their reason for sovereignty. They would use their nuclear weapons to keep the land and all hell would break loose.

  • forrest3

    Remember that Israel has governed the Gaza and the West Bank for over 50 years now — and it has been a diaster for everyone. The Palestinians are more radicalized now then ever. Israel cannot rule over the territories forever. Fifty years is enough.Also remember that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic if it continues to govern the West Bank and Gaza since the population of Jews and Arabs in all areas under Israel rule (including Israel, West Bank and Gaza) are approximately even. A territory 50% Jewish and 50% Muslim will not succeed as a Jewish state.I am including Gaza since Israel effectively governs Gaza by controlling its borders, airspace, imports and exports, etc.

  • ccnl1

    Reality 101 – Part 1, Judaism (for those eyes that have not seen)Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or aMany of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and many of their rabbis to include the On Faith panelist, Rabbi David Wolpe, have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT. Current crisis:Realization that the Jews are not god’s chosen people. Analogous flaws in the history and theology of the other major religions are presented in Parts 2 and 3 (Christianity), 4 ( Islam) , 5 (Hinduism) and 6 (Buddhism) of the six part Religion Reality series.

  • dolph924

    Well, let’s be clear — he said “yes” on Palestine with conditions that preclude any possibility of agreement by the other side and with no cessation of further settlements. You CAN call that “yes,” but that’s a stretch. What he said was far better than another invasion or bombing run, but it won’t lead to anything resembling a peace settlement. I don’t think it was a good faith attempt to reach peace, but rather just an attempt at saving political face. I doubt if there will be any peace agreement with him as the Israeli leader. I’m not even saying that he is wrong — when Hammas still denies Israel’s right to exist and poses constant terrorist and rocket threats to Israeli citizens, it’s not clear that there is any way to deal with them rationally. I’m just saying that what he said is no big deal if you are talking about actually achieving peace instead of just achieving some political relief.

  • usapdx

    ALL CONDITIONS PLACE ON A PALESTINE STATE MUST APPLY THE SAME TO THE ISRALE STATE. IT IS TIME TO BE JUST TO BOTH EQUAL.

  • dnjake

    People just don’t get the basic reality. There are three choices for the region. Exclusively Palestine, exclusively Israel, or some kind of shared solution. The Jews have made the choice of rejecting exclusively Palestine. That choice will happen only if they are forced into the sea.

  • asizk

    This statment is unequivocally false:”Netanyahu Answers ‘Yes’ on Palestine.”the writer is squarely dishonest and he know it.

  • mikebustami

    I don’t think he’s serious at all. Also, I don’t think president Obama have any idea about the physical description of the two states solution. The Israeli PM pretended to agree on a Palestinian state but without any definition. That makes his statement another trick to fool around and waste more time while the illegal settlements are spreading like cancer all over the Palestinian’s land.