I call on you, our Palestinian neighbours, and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority: Let us begin peace negotiations immediately, without preconditions. So said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a highly anticipated foreign policy address on Sunday. Yes, I do like these two words ‘without preconditions’. So here we go:
Netanyahu declared his willingness to see the creation of a Palestinian state, but in return he insisted, among other things, that:
1. ‘Jerusalem must remain the unified capital of Israel’.
2. ‘The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders’.
3. ‘When Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as Jewish state, we will be ready for a true final settlement’.
So what are these if not Israeli preconditions? Now, add to it Netanyahu’s insistence on allowing ‘natural growth’ in Jewish settlements, which is an old trick Israeli governments use to increase the number of settlers on the disputed land, and what you’ve got here are new hurdles that render a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state impossible.
But then, perhaps, as former US President Bill Clinton put it, we should regard Netanyahu’s tough terms the opening moves in a ‘drama that will have a few more acts’, being the Prime Minister’s response to Obama’s first moves.
Well, if that’s indeed the case then it’s over to you, Mr Obama!