Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a major address at Bar-Ilan University at the Israel Towards 2020 Conference at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies earlier in the week on Sunday evening, Oct. 6, 2013 aimed at identifying the major roadblocks for any peace and clarifying the root cause of the conflict. The 30-minute speech calmed many of his right leaning cabinet members about his position in the current peace talks, and was meant to deflect blame from the world for the conflict's origins and if current negotiations fail to result in a peace agreement. Netanyahu himself seems skeptical about the prospect of peace from these rounds of negotiations and expressed his concerns in the speech.
Netanyahu previously gave another address at the university in 2009 on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the far more moderate speech then recognized the need for a two-state solution. However speaking four years later the Prime Minister essentially denounced his entire speech from 2009.
The most important message and the theme of Netanyahu's hawkish address was that "Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace." The Prime Minister identified this as the primarily road block to peace and his speech meant to aim the blame for failed, past, present and future negotiations on the Palestinians. Continuing on the issue, Netanyahu emphasized; "A necessary condition to getting a true solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian] conflict was and remains clear as the sun: ending the refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a homeland of their own in the land of their fathers. That is the most important key to solving the conflict."
Netanyahu focused less on the intricacies of the peace talks, skipping discussions on borders, Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements for a recounting of the Jewish history and ties to Israel that have been there since biblical times, and telling the history of the present conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu also listed the string of terrorist attack by Palestinians against Israel and its Jewish population from 1967 to the present.
The Present conflict according to Netanyahu is not based on any alleged occupation, but the Palestinians not wanting Jews in Israel, or that there should even be an Israel at all; the reason behind their continued refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu stated; "Then came the Partition Plan in 1947, with the suggestion of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state. The Jews agreed, the Arabs refused. Because the issue was not then the question of a Palestinian state - the issue was and remains the Jewish state. Then 19 years later came the stranglehold around us aimed at uprooting us. And why? After all, then there was no occupation."
The Prime Minister also pinpointed the year the present conflict began 1921, not the 1967 and the Six-Day War that the non-Jewish world has been emphasizing. Netanyahu explained; "The conflict, if I have to choose a date when it began in earnest, began in the year 1921, on the day Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigrants' house in Jaffa. This attack, of course, had nothing to do with the territories or settlements. It was against the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel."
Netanyahu aimed to debunk the myth about the change of borders in 1967 resulted in a conflict, a supposed occupation, which most of the world has and still blames Israel for. Netanyahu clarified; "When anyone is asked what is the source of the conflict, the standard answer is the occupation, the territories, the settlements. They say that the Israeli takeover of Judea and Samaria following the Six-Day War to a large extent created the conflict, and I ask whether that is true."
The international community spends too much of their focus on the 1967 borders and is the basis of a majority of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment the whole world over, spawning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement which has seeped in at all levels, and is even part of the motivator for the European Union's recent guidelines boycotting Israeli areas that are beyond the post-1967 borders. Netanyahu comments on the true point of conflict are meant to clarify to the world about their misguided, distorted and uneducated views on the realities of the situation.
PM Netanyahu stressed that after 65 years, the Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel, is the true and main roadblock to peace; "The basis of the conflict has been the same for 90 years - refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a state in Israel. For the process we're in to have a real chance of success, we need to hear finally from the leadership of the Palestinians that they recognize the Jewish state, which is Israel."
Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed skepticism at the sincerity of any agreement, emphasizing why security is the paramount of importance. Netanyahu stated; "After generations of incitement we have no confidence that such recognition will percolate down to the Palestinian people. That is why we need extremely strong security arrangements and to go forward, but not blindly."
The Prime Minister also spoke at length discussing Palestinian links to Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, especially those of their former mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, a figure still revered by the Palestinians, which also need to be changed for peace to actually be implemented. Netanyahu also cleared up a myth that; "The Zionists didn't use the Holocaust to destroy the national aspirations of the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership used the Holocaust to destroy the Zionist movement, and almost succeeded. European Jewry was destroyed, with the help of the mufti, but Zionism was not destroyed; Israel was established."
Netanyahu's speech also continued the main point of his address at the United Nations General Assembly from Oct. 1 about Iran's true intentions regarding their nuclear weapons programs, recent overtures for diplomacy masking a continued worldwide threat, and their continued goal to destroy Israel. Netanyahu explained diplomacy can only work if Iran's entire program is dismantled including uranium enrichment. Netanyahu stressed; "The international community's position needs to be that we are ready to come to a diplomatic solution, but only one that gets rid of Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons."
The Prime Minister's address reflected a majority view from Israeli Jews, where according to this year's Israel Democracy Institute's annual Democracy Index, 30.6 percent believe that any final peace agreement, deals to withdraw from the West Bank or settlements or any Israeli land should be decided by the public with a majority vote in a referendum.
The Jerusalem Post's headline from Monday morning Oct. 7, read "Netanyahu lowers expectations for Israeli-Palestinian peace" in regard to his speech the evening before at Bar-Ilan University, it is not only Netanyahu that lowers expectations it is the current realties of the situation that makes lowering expectations necessary. Israel went into the peace talks with good faith and even as they were forced to be the only side tied to preconditions, one of releasing terrorists and murders back into society to again pose a threat to the Israeli public.
In the two months since the talks began there have only been negativity coming from the Palestinians side, complaints, special requests, and demands, coupled with increased violence against Israelis, threats of a third intifada if the talks failed. It is only natural for expectations to be lowered, the Prime Minister needs to be realistic, and he needs to primarily keep the country safe regardless of the demands of the rest of the world. As the talks continue it gets even more critical that Netanyahu stand his ground, thinking only of Israel's security and future, and dismiss pleasing the world's spectators.
- PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Israel Towards 2020 Conference at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Oct. 6, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.