Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered a peace formula that would create a Palestinian state while preserving Israeli security and national identity in his speech Sunday. The reaction? The Palestinians and others in the Islamic world are…enraged.
In Saudi Arabia, the state newspaper Al-Nadwa lamented that “every paragraph of Netanyahu’s speech makes us more pessimistic.” In Jordan, the pro-government newspaper Al-Rai huffed: “Netanyahu offered rotten merchandise. Nobody will buy it.” Mohammed Sobeih, the Arab League’s undersecretary general for Palestinian affairs, said that while “extremists in Israel” might like the speech, it was “too far from what peace needs.” The President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, said that the speech was “intransigent when it comes to dealing with peace or regarding the solution for Palestinian refugees.”
And that was just the beginning. Others charged that Netanyahu had brought the region closer to armed conflict. Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, said that Netanyahu’s call to “recognize Israel as a Jewish state complicates things further and scuttles the possibilities for peace.” Apparently an Arab state is just fine, but a Jewish state, no. Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, meanwhile, asserted that Netanyahu delivered “a war speech that practically torpedoed and crippled all possibilities for a compromise,” and that “makes the region susceptible to great dangers that might explode in different directions.”
Palestinian Saeb Erekat complained that Netanyahu’s speech “left nothing for negotiations….Netanyahu wants to put us in a situation where he looks like he offered something, and we said no.” And he attempted to cast the onus back upon Netanyahu: “Netanyahu’s speech was very clear. He rejects the two-state solution.” He warned about Netanyahu’s crafty rhetoric: “I hope that the world will not be fooled by this gentleman using the term ‘come and negotiate’ and ‘a Palestinian state.’ He actually tonight destroyed the two-state solution and destroyed the permanent settlement negotiations.”
“Netanyahu,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “is defying the world. The international community should reply by pressure to isolate Netanyahu and his policies and force Israel to submit to the peace process.”
With Netanyahu finally agreeing in principle to a Palestinian state, these furious reactions seem curious. But they arise from his stipulation that such a state must be disarmed, an entirely reasonable limitation in light of Israel’s grim historical experience. Netanyahu reminded the world that the UN set out on the path of a “two-state solution” in 1947, when it mandated the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state. However, he noted, “the entire Arab world rejected the resolution….The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.”
Perhaps with Barack Obama in mind, Netanyahu recalled that “many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.” Accordingly, he said that a new Palestinian state “must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel. Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza.”
Netanyahu is right: territorial concessions by Israel have never eased the jihad imperative pursued by Hamas, Hizballah, and the rest, and they wouldn’t now. If a Palestinian state must be established, as Obama has demanded, the only chance Israel has to survive is if such a state has no chance to become a new base for renewed and increasingly virulent jihad attacks against Israel.
But the reaction from the Islamic world was hardly promising. The Syria’s state newspaper, Tishreen, painted Netanyahu’s call for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state in lurid terms: “The Zionist government…agrees to set up Palestinian cantons reminiscent of the blacks’ cantons in South Africa in the days of the racist regime.” Rabbo echoed this language, saying that Netanyahu “spoke of a demilitarized state, but he also stripped it of all sovereignty attributes, transforming it into a protectorate of isolated cantons.”
Jihadists in the Palestinian Authority and their allies in the Islamic world have always made clear their ultimate intention to destroy Israel. That has never changed, through broken accord after broken accord, even as Western leaders continue to nurse hopes of a negotiated peace. It is they upon whom the world should focus its indignation, given their hostile reaction to the reasoned and generous speech of Binyamin Netanyahu.
But no one is going to do that — least of all Barack Obama.