Wednesday, 17 June 2009
In a landmark speech on Sunday, Binyamin Netanyahu finally accepted the two-state solution proposed by many as the answer to the Palestine-Israeli conflict. President Obama may rightly call this a victory on his part, but has this truly made a difference to the position we were in before?
Looking at Israeli politics it seems that only those on the far-right have publicly condemned the speech as a "surrender". Within the governing coalition there have been some small grumblings but nothing on the scale one would naturally expect.
The reason for this can be noted by a detailed look at the speech itself. Netanyahu stated he would accept the Palestinian state if two principles were fulfilled. The first of these has been labelled by Hamas as racist, which maybe goes a step too far, but the actual criticism itself is well grounded. The principle that a Palestinian state must “clearly and unambiguously recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people” has certain side effects which discriminate against the Palestinian people. In plain terms it means that any Palestinian refugees would have to be settled outside Israel's border so as to not "undermine Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people".
Secondly Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinian state be completely demilitarised. This also means that the government may form no military pacts with other countries and would have no control over its own airspace. In a 21st century middle-east this is completely unfeasible and will have to be challenged.
Hence we return to Obama who has to make the most of this concession. The general acceptance of a two-state solution has to be welcomed as a step forward but now a fair, realistic deal must be brokered.