In the final hours of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to retain his leadership position, Netanyahu spoke to his conservative supporters, “there will not be a Palestinian State on my watch”. Singing to the choir, Netanyahu, a master politician, reached out to get the last vote possible in what was predicted to be a close race. The world’s reactions to his words were instantaneous.
In particular, President Obama said bluntly through his press secretary, that the State Department will review our overall relationship with Israel and in particular its negotiations with the Palestinians. The unbreakable bonds which all US Presidents invoke when referencing the Israeli relationship suddenly did not appear so firm.
As the election dust settle, Netanyahu realized he had a comfortable basis to form another government. And just as suddenly he had “clarifications” to make to his “no two states” pathway, and he wanted to make it to as many US press members as he could.
Netanyahu explained that his no two State solution referred only to the current Palestinian Authority which includes Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization, Netanyahu stressed. Hmmm.
Netanyahu’s point is that an independent Palestinian State would be a breeding ground for terrorists just as Gaza is today. Occupied territories (the current condition) minimizes that risk. So, with a completely straight face, Netanyahu announced he really did want a two State solution. Hmmm.
Hamas’s Gaza strategies, for example firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, makes no sense when viewed from abroad. Instead of undertaking public works and education projects in Gaza, Hamas prefers building tunnels and smuggling rockets and munitions into Gaza later to be used against Israel. This dysfunctional behavior understandably severely clouds negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas gratuitously provides Israelis committed to a one State solution all the arguments they need to make their point.
Netanyahu’s “no-I mean yes to two States” statements put in question also his objections to the Iranian nuclear weapons discussions. Netanyahu has said Iran can’t be trusted (hmmm, that must mean no agreement can be trusted). He has also offered no alternative path forward except an undefined “better deal”. So, what does Netanyahu mean? Is there a better deal possible with Iran or is it simply fruitless to negotiate at all? And where does that lead us?
We know in the world of “political speak” words do not always mean what they say. Prime Minister Netanyahu has plenty of fellow travelers in the US Congress and that should make for more fireworks in the months ahead.