Monday, June 15, 2009

PM Netanyahu's Non-Offer to Obama and the Palestinians

There's been a lot of talk lately that because Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel finally agreed to a Palestinian state, that Obama scored a huge victory and this proves that the peace process will once again be on track thanks to our President's leadership.

Unfortunately, most of the reporting on this has missed the point. But the Times Online figured out what's up:

Binyamin Netanyahu threw down the gauntlet to the US last night, grudgingly agreeing to a limited Palestinian state that would be demilitarized and not in control of its airspace or borders.

The hawkish Prime Minister insisted that Israel would never give up a united Jerusalem as its capital, and said that established Jewish settlements in the West Bank would continue to expand - despite explicit objections from Washington.

In a keynote speech that referred to a Palestinian "entity" far more frequently than an actual state, Mr Netanyahu tried to advance elements of his economic peace plan - whereby the Palestinians would get increased investment but only limited sovereignty - while still conceding to US insistence on the creation of an independent Palestinian country.

Essentially what's happening is Netanyahu is laughing at Obama and the Palestinians with this offer. The "state" he's offering is one without a military or control over basic sovereignty, and who has all of its connections removed from the Palestinians cultural hub -- Jerusalem. Meaning that Netanyahu basically is saying that the only "state" he will allow the Palestinians to have is one that no sane people would want.

If Obama is really serious about this peace push and isn't just interested in lecturing about peace in front of Arab audiences, he would take a hard and serious look at the two sources of US aid to Israel: one, the military and economic aid (which Congress ultimately controls), and two, the diplomatic cover the US gives Israel by vetoing UN resolutions against them (Obama could do this unilaterally if he wants).

All negotiations are about carrots and sticks, not just talking. I'm sure Obama understand that. He just needs to act on it.