Sunday, March 29, 2009

What does Netanyahu really think?

Binyamin Netanyahu will take the premiership of Israel in two days after managing to form a goverment with both the left and right hands of Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has yet to show his hand on the contentious issue of the two state solution.

This 1978 video shows a 28 year old Ben Nitay (aka Binyamin Netanyahu) arguing that the US should oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

Whether Netanyahu still believes that is arguable. I think that while the idealist Netanyahu does not necessarily believe that Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza have an assumed right to self determintaion, he is pragmatic enough to realise that a two state solution is all but inevitable.

The political landscape has changed somewhat since 1978:
  • Israelis are under a constant threat of war or terrorism, and are willing to pay a dear price to end that state of living (even if yes, it is giving in to terrorists)
  • The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan (from which Gaza and the West Bank were conquered) were concluded without the inclusion of the disputed territories in the peace agreement - due to objection from the Arab states. Thus the proposal of the paletinians receiving full citizenship in Jordan and Egypt are no longer realistic.
  • The demographic threat that Ben dismisses back in 1978 is very real today, such that granting Palestinians full Israeli citizenship would undermine the Jewish majority in the state of Israel and its ability to preserve itself as such.
  • The multi state solution (two-state; or three - incuding Hamastan; or four - including Jordan) is therefore seen as the only other realistic alternative. The global acceptence of this principle is such that rejection thereof would lead to diplomatic isolation for Israel. Netanyahu of saged hair is well aware that he may need to shed some of the ideals of his days of youth.

Netanyahu can't say much of this publicly as it conflicts with the idealism of his power base. His aggressive pursuit of a left wing party in his government and the expensive price he paid for it suggest that he is pursuing strategies that are consistent with the two-state solution.

Another possibility is that the next 3 years will focus on the Iranian threat and ignore the Palestinian issue, an issue that is seen as impossible to resolve while the Palestinian population and leadership is so fractured. On this issue Barak and Netanyahu see eye to eye as the existenial threat Iran poses to Israel breaks all barriers of left and right.


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