The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has welcomed several aspects of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus speech his statement of the conflicts basis in Arab non-acceptance of Jewish statehood; the need for Palestinians to accept Israel and end terror and incitement; that Jerusalem should remain undivided; that Jews stem from the Jewish homeland and are not European interlopers; stating the fact that Israeli territorial concessions has led to more attacks and bloodshed; asserting the need for Jewish communities in the territories to enjoy normal life, growth and development; declaring that Palestinian refugees and their descendants must be settled outside Israel; and warning of the danger of radical Islam and nuclear weapons but regards as a major, mistaken and unilateral concession his declaration that Israel will accept the establishment of a Palestinian state on various, unenforceable conditions, i.e., a demilitarized state that is not permitted to have alliances with Israels enemies.
Netanyahu is the leader of the camp that for years has opposed and spelled out the danger of establishing a Palestinian state. Such a major concession flies in the face of six decades of Palestinian and general Arab refusal to accept Israel as sovereign Jewish state, the failure of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fulfill its obligations under the Oslo Agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan to arrest terrorists, dismantle and outlaw terrorist groups, confiscate illegal weaponry and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feeds terror. It contradicts the letter and spirit of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabins own conception of the peace process, which he outlined in his last speech before the Knesset in October 1995, in which he said:
We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority (Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: Ratification of the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, Knesset, October 5, 1995).
Netanyahus concession on supporting a demilitarized Palestinian state also contradicts Netanyahus long record of opposing precisely such a state. As he stated in an eloquent and detailed May 2002 speech:
The biggest mistake that can be made is to promise the greatest prize for Palestinian terrorism: the establishment of their own independent state it will demand all the powers of a state, such as controlling borders, bringing in weapons, control of airspace and the ability to knock down any Israeli plane that enters its area, the ability to sign peace treaties and military alliances with other countries. Once you give them a state, you give them all these things, even if there is an agreement to the contrary, for within a short time they will demand all these things, and they will assume these powers, and the world will stand by and do nothing but it will stop us from trying to stop them … We will thus have created with our own hands a threat to our very existence. On the day that we sign an agreement for a state with limited authorities, what will happen if the Palestinians do what the Germans did after World War I, when they nullified the demilitarized zone? The world did nothing then, and the world will do nothing now as well. Even now, the Palestinians are removing all the restrictions to which they agreed in Oslo they are smuggling in arms, polluting the water sources, building an army, making military deals with Iran and others, and more But when we try to take action against this, the world opposes us and not them… Arafat said it best when talking to reporters the day he signed the Oslo Accords: Since we cant defeat Israel in war, we must do it in stages, we must take whatever area of Palestine we can get, establish sovereignty there, and then at the right time, we will have to convince the Arab nations to join us in dealing the final blow to Israel. Self-rule, yes. But a state with which to destroy the State of Israel no … We are told that the idea of a Palestinian state is just a vision for the future, not for right now. Well, our nation, too, has a vision for the future: The wolf shall lie down with the lamb. When this vision is fulfilled in the Middle East, then well convene this Committee again and re-consider the issue Throughout the years, all the Likud governments objected to a Palestinian state, and on that platform we were voted into power, and to this mandate all Likud leaders are bound We need not be concerned that the international community does not agree with us on this matter. Did the international community foresee the Holocaust? And if it did, did it do anything about it? Did it even lift a finger? It also did nothing about the threat to our existence that faced us from the Iraqi reactor except to condemn us when Menachem Begins government destroyed it On matters vital to our existence, we always took clear action, even if others didnt agree with us. Because the bottom line is that saying Yes to a Palestinian state means No to a Jewish State, and vice-versa (Hillel Fendel, Netanyahu: Why We Must Oppose a Palestinian State, Israel National News, April 30, 2009).
However, in his speech yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu contradicted his previous positions by stating that:
Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel. Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran . It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized. On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed. Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized: namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts. Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israels security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state (Prime Minister’s Speech at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University, Israel Prime Ministers Office, June 14, 2009).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, While we are pleased and strongly supportive of the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu stated some very important truths in his speech, this does not reduce the error and danger of essentially conceding now, in return for absolutely no present Palestinian fulfillment of previous agreements, Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Netanyahu attached several conditions to his acceptance, but the adequacy of these conditions is vitiated by the very arguments he himself outlined against a Palestinian state in 2002. Previously, as Prime Minister, Netanyahu also made territorial concessions in Hebron in 1997 and in Judea and Samaria more generally in 1998, without getting anything in return except worthless Palestinian promises.
It is correct to demand Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state but, given the track record of the PA having continually violated its past commitments, can Israel afford to accept such assurances from the PA? After all, if the PA is prepared to arm, fund and protect terrorists that murder Israelis, are they not at least equally likely to lie to Israel on this vital point, especially as the PA has an impressive record of lying to Israel since 1993?
It is all very well for Israel to demand a demilitarized Palestinian state, but after the PA obtains statehood, what likelihood is there that it will remain demilitarized, not form hostile military pacts, not import offensive weaponry, not continue to shelter terrorists and so on? Israeli Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad is correct in saying that accepting a demilitarized Palestinian state is like demanding a ritually slaughtered pig to make it kosher something that simply cannot be.
Acceptance of a Palestinian state even on Prime Minister Netanyahus conditions constitutes a massive reward for the terror-sponsoring PA. Consider: once a state of Palestine is set up and violates all its commitments, will the world withdraw recognition? Will the Palestinian state be pressured effectively to cease its violations? Most importantly, will Israel be able to step in and dismantle such a state or take military action against it? The answer in each case is clearly no. This being the case, what ironclad commitments can anyone give Israel as Prime Minister Netanyahu is now demanding of the U.S. and international community with any expectation on Israels part that these guarantees will be enforced when the time comes? Let us not forget that after eight years of missile attacks from Gaza by a recognized terrorist entity, the whole world condemned it. How can one expect that world will behave differently when the Palestinians have a state?
A Palestinian state would bring terror groups within rocket range of major Israeli population centers, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport; Israel would be reduced to a narrow waist a mere 9 miles wide, which would render Israel indefensible what Abba Eban used to call the Auschwitz borders. It would also be a humanitarian disaster, as hundreds of thousands of Jews living beyond the pre-1967 lines may well be uprooted in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.
It is also already clear that even Netanyahus acceptance of Palestinian statehood on the conditions he outlined has already met repudiation and hostility from Arab leaders. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said, the call to recognize Israel as a Jewish state makes the situation more complicated and aborts the chances of peace. A PA spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas said, Its obvious, in the aftermath of this speech, that we are headed toward another round of violence and bloodshed. Nabil Abu Rudeinah, an aide to PA president Mahmoud Abbas, said that Netanyahus remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralyzed all efforts being made, and challenge the Palestinian, Arab, and American positions. PA senior negotiator Saeb Erekat has said, President Obama, the ball is in your court tonight. You can treat Netanyahu as a prime minister above the law and close off the path of peace tonight and set the whole region on the path of violence, chaos, extremism, and bloodletting. The alternative is to make Netanyahu abide by the road map. The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Tonight, Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back. Erekat also said, We were not surprised by this speech It didn’t come as a surprise to all those who are familiar with the Israeli mentality. Its time for the Arab world to announce a clear position toward Netanyahus speech.
We acknowledge that Netanyahus speech has now served to expose how radical the Arab leaders are and we urge everyone to cease and desist from using the term moderate Arab leaders, even when that phrase refers to Egypts Mubarak or the PAs Abbas.
It is therefore quite clear that Israel concessions induce nothing but the increasing Palestinian extremism that Netanyahu himself noted in his speech yesterday. What type of Palestinian state will it be when PA leaders are threatening violence and war? It is also worrying that the Obama Administration has welcomed Netanyahus concession, but without mentioning any of the conditions that Netanyahu attached to it.
The ZOA believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu should have laid out all Palestinian obligations under written agreements that are required, and stipulated that they must be observed for at least one year before Israel comes forward and examines what further concessions Israel should give. For example, Prime Minister Netanyahu should have demanded that the PA media, mosques, schools and youth camps verifiably stop preaching violence and hatred of Jews and Israel. He should have demanded that Israel be placed on PA maps, atlases and stationary. He should have demanded that Palestinian schools, streets and sports teams named in honor of suicide bombers and other terrorists are renamed. He should have called for the abrogation of Fatahs Constitution, which calls for terrorism and Israels destruction. He should have demanded that the PA arrest and jail the hundreds of terrorists on Israels wanted lists. He should have demanded that Abbas make regular, numerous speeches in Arabic preaching peace with Israel and denouncing the immorality of terrorist murder of Israelis.
Accordingly, while we remain pleased that Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly repudiated the notion that Israel was created in recompense for the Jewish people having suffered the Holocaust an historically inaccurate claim that President Obama made in his recent Cairo speech; while we note that he accurately pointed out strangely, without mentioning Iran the existential threat posed by the nexus of radical Islam and nuclear weapons; while he rightly defended the right of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem to grow within their present boundaries; while we applaud his clear and bold statement as to the origins of the Arab war on Israel lying in their non-acceptance of Jewish independence and statehood, not in Palestinian refugees or occupation; while we praise his reiteration of the need for Jerusalem to remain undivided; while he sharply observed that Palestinians heighten their demands and raise obstacles the closer Israel has moved over 15 years to their position, rather than reciprocate with genuine concessions of their own; while he laid out soundly the fact that experience shows that Israeli territorial concessions yield only more terrorism and bloodshed; and while he rightly stipulated that the solution to the predicament of Palestinian refugees of the 1948-49 war and their millions of descendants lies outside Israels borders, the unfortunate fact remains that Prime Minister Netanyahu has yielded a dangerous, unreciprocated concession with unenforceable conditions that has been in any case met with hostility by Arab leaders and accepted by the Obama Administration without regard to those conditions, inadequate though they are.
The ZOA is concerned that the message Netanyahus speech sent is that, by turning around and endorsing a demilitarized Palestinian state which he staunchly opposed in the past a crossing of a personal Rubicon as his top adviser, Ron Dermer said today the message to the Palestinian Arabs may well be sent to the Palestinian Arabs that they can sit back and await more unilateral Israeli concessions and the dropping of Israels conditions due to increased pressure from the U.S. and Europe.
Now that the Prime Minister has already made this speech, we urge that, at a minimum, he resists all pressures to reduce or eliminate any of his stated conditions as well as to continue to demand an end to incitement and terror.