Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Netanyahu's Commitment To Two-State Solution Questioned

The New York Times reports that both Israelis and Palestinians doubt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution:

In the weeks since Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally accepted the principle of a Palestinian state, with qualifications, there has been deep skepticism about his sincerity.

On the Palestinian side, aides to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, have called Mr. Netanyahu’s grudging endorsement of Palestinian statehood, under international pressure, a disingenuous public relations exercise.

But even senior officials and prominent figures of his conservative Likud Party have been busy explaining, privately and publicly, why they think there is not likely to be a Palestinian state any time soon, in ways that raise even more questions about the current government’s commitment to reaching a final peace accord.

And Mr. Netanyahu’s diplomatic turnaround was greeted by a notable silence among the Likud firebrands and hawks, widely interpreted here as a sign that they feel they have nothing to fear.

Israel is continuing to build in East Jerusalem despite the objections of the Americans and Palestinians:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Sunday an American call to hold off on a planned Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, saying Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed city could not be challenged.

Mr. Netanyahu issued the statement because State Department officials had raised concerns over the project with Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, during discussions last week on a range of issues. The American officials suggested that going ahead with the development now would cause problems in negotiations toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

...The East Jerusalem property in question, to be developed into a 20-unit complex, was bought by a Miami-based businessman, Irving Moskowitz, in 1985. ...The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told Israel Radio that instead of defending the Moskowitz development, Mr. Netanyahu should be preparing Israel to make peace. “He knows very well that there will never be peace between Palestinians and Israelis without East Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian state,” Mr. Erekat said.

Steve Clemons, writing in The Washington Note, calls Netanyahu "Obama's Krushchev" and advises Obama to challenge Netanyahu lest the U.S. lose credibility in the Middle East:

Netanyahu is poking the Obama White House, ridiculing his foreign policy team, and launching preemptive strikes at the very necessary deal-making that Obama must move forward in the region to shore up America's power position and global relevance.

The Moskowitz-Netanyahu Plan to expand settlements in East Jerusalem, clearly over the red lines set by previous presidential administration and Israeli prime ministerships, is designed to pommel Obama and deflate his power in the eyes of other regional stakeholders.

...If Obama doesn't find a way to knock Netanyahu down off his perch, then Bibi will define Obama rather than Obama leading and setting the key parameters for a new, forward looking, stable Middle East equilibrium.

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