Both Netanyahu and the Palestinians rejected the American president’s offer to renew the peace process in the familiar two states outline. Maybe it will be their refusal that will bear new ways to end the conflict.
In his heavily televised speech last weekend, Barack Obama presented what seems like the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the two states solution.
Both sides rejected the speech, each for their personal reasons, in what seemed as another nail in the Middle Eastern peace coffin.
But it’s actually an opportunity to listen to other voices, from both sides, and the solutions they have to offer.
Straight after Obama’s speech Dani Danon, Head of the world Likkud Organization, attacked him and said “Obama wants to force Arafat’s Ten Point Program on Israel. Netanyahu has to tell him – forget about it”. And indeed PM Binyamin Netanyahu wasn’t far behind and declared, “I reject your offer – we will not retreat back to the 1967 borders”. MP Danon already stated before Obama’s speech: “I say this clearly: the Likkud Movement doesn’t recognize the term ‘bloc’. It’s not in our vocabulary. I advise the Prime Minister to erase it from his vocabulary as well. The only blocs we know is Judea bloc and Samaria Bloc. We will not turn in Kadima #2 ”.
Netanyahu isn’t far off from Danon. The dispute between Likkud and Obama’s vision for the Middle East based on the ’67 borders is deeply related to Netanyahu’s perception of the state’s security. Bibi won’t take back the settlements bloc to allow Palestinians a territorial continuity in their future state.
More so, he is not willing to accept Palestinian presence in the Jordan Valley. Likkud and Netanyahu refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both states, to negotiate with Hamas, not to mention acknowledging the issue of the right of return and the collective rights of Palestinians within Israel.
The Palestinians on their part were surprised by Obama’s speech. Obama’s request of the Palestinians to help advance the peace process put them in the position of the so-called negotiations ‘opposers’. But the PA and Hamas never opposed the negotiations.
The morning after the speech the Palestinians declared they will promote the U.N’s recognition of a Palestinian state despite Obama’s objection. But they understand the limits of their power, since a US veto can render their efforts useless. It’s unclear though, why Israel was able to (supposedly) disengage from the Gaza Strip, whereas it’s not ok for the Palestinians to disengage from Israel. And it’s even less clear why the Palestinians choose over and over again ideas that are like a photographic negative of the Israeli right wing bloc.
The most hated country in the world
Israel also prepares itself towards September, and will not rest assured on the possibility of a US veto on a Palestinian state. Robert Serry, the UN’s Middle East envoy, was speaking about what could potentially happen is September (as part of a series of discussions held by the Robringer Forum). Serry claims that if everything else fails, Israel will set alight the area. But we know how easily the emptied, cynical generals junta embarks on “an operation”, portrays offence as “defense” and carries out war crimes.
A September war as a kind of a doom’s day weapon will kill off any possibility for the Palestinians to disengage from Israel, finish off the democratic winds currently blowing in the area and may deem Israel officially as the most hated state in the world.
But between a unilateral Palestinian state and an Israeli war, other submerged voices rise to the surface. We can notice the Palestinian narrative entering the Israeli media, culture and politics. Israelis hear and learn about the refugees, the Nakbah, and the Palestinian’s true desire for a land of their own. We’ve become accustomed to parties such as Hadash and Balad being the only ones who still believe in the Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement, but they have been recently joined by senior MP’s from Kadima and the Labour Party, such as Shaul Mofaz and Amram Mitzna. Kadima, sitting in the opposition, is keenly awaiting a chance to get back into the game and be back on the negotiations table. Closer to elections time, we will hear their loud and strong desire for voicing another stance.
The settlements blocs can offer us a new perspective on the area between the Jordan River and the sea. Already there are groups of settlers (such as ‘Siach Shalom’, ‘Yerushalom’ and others), and authorities in the Palestinian leadership in Israel (for example in the Vision Documents) who look creatively at the various options of leadership in the area. Even Moshe Arens, former Likkud Defense Minster offers to hand out Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians. Perhaps these ideas will begin to crumble down the binary thinking dividing our area into two separate parts, and forgets along the way other possibilities of governance.