There are those who have praised Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent speech and those who have condemned it as more of the same. Many have looked to the bright side, his agreement that the Palestinians could have a state along side Israel, while others have criticized his refusal to stop the expansion of existing settlements as a way of undermining the process of peace, even while calling for it. Personally, I thought that PM Netanyahu's speech was masterful and have seen little substantial criticism of it from anyone not on the far left or right.
In many ways, it paralleled Obama's Cairo speech in which the section specifically dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fairly well received by the vast majority of Israelis (Obama's falling approval rating among Israelis has more to do with other speeches in which he has been more harshly critical of Israel and with his failure to address Iran's nuclear issues). I do have problems with the President's treatment of history in the Cairo speech, something to which I believe that PM Netanyahu did an excellent job in responding (Pres. Obama made it seem as if Zionism began with the Holocaust). I also have major problems with completely ignoring anti-Judaism in Muslim history, going back much farther than the 1920s where PM Netanyahu began his history. Worst still is probably Pres. Obama's implicit comparison between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering. I must, however, strongly applaud Pres. Obama for stating in the midst of the Arab world that the US has an unbreakable bond with Israel. For a more detailed treatment of President Obama's speech please see my radio show found at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1605803 (there were a few technical difficulties with the video, but the sound is good). This all said, on to the more important point at the moment, both speeches contained idea changes whose implications are not fully realized by advocates for either Israel or the Palestinians.
The first is that Two-State Solution is not accurate enough. I have talked about this before. Leaders are now being more explicit that we are talking "Two-States for Two-Peoples" and not simply "Two States." Some leaders are seeking "two states" both of which would eventually become Palestinian states. Pres. Obama mentioned in his speech that:
We will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians EACH live in peace and security.
The "two states for two peoples" concept eliminates a major threat to Israel, namely the return en mass by Palestinian refugees to homes in Israel because it could not happen while maintaining a Jewish state. Those refugees would go to a Palestinian state. The question then becomes how many could such a state support in addition to its already overcrowded population. The answer is very few, leaving the problem of Palestinian refugees for the Arab nations to handle.
The second is a developing understanding that the Palestinians lack the fundamental institutions necessary for any nation-state to work. President Obama stated in his speech, words that easily could have come from PM Netanyahu:
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
While THIS statement is lacking "as a Jewish state," it basically puts the ball in the Palestinian's court. It also functionally forces the PA to live up to those same requirements. They cannot simply wait for Israel to act to grant them a state. They have to do these things, "Now." That societal work won't take months, but could take multiple years or even decades. The problem then is the continuing pressure to find a solution ASAP. ASAP may be decades. It will not be the second year or even third year of President Obama's administration.
After the speech, the people looked to PM Netanyahu to endorse a two state solution. In the minds of most, he did exactly that, but did so in a brilliant way. Netanyahu RE-NAMED what is in essence a state-semi-state solution, a 1 1/2 state solution, as a TWO-state solution. It is in fact NEITHER a one or two state solution. The Palestinian entity would be a SEMI-state. This is what I have suggested for years now. It made sense over a decade ago. I thought that was where things were headed in 1993-1994, much less in 1996, much less in 2000... The Palestinians could be granted a state so long as that state is disarmed and not potentially a threat to the existence of Israel.
The state-semi-state idea would never have been accepted by Arafat and will likely not be accepted by Abbas. It CAN'T be accepted by Hamas. IF the world media actually continues to present this idea as a TWO-state solution, which is seems to be doing, Netanyahu has won the war for Israel, much less the battle. I think that is indeed the path the process will be heading and Pres. Obama supports it. Let us not be blinded to the dramatic implications of this path for Israel.
Basically, it rids Israel of its major problems in making peace. It ends Palestinian hopes for conquest entirely, ending any hope that the right of return to Palestine would matter, since the extra-population could not arm and fight, and means that Israel will maintain whatever land it holds when peace is made indefinitely. The only things that it provides the Palestinians are economic opportunity and freedom so long as the latter does not threaten Israel. The only Israelis who could possibly oppose such a deal would be the settlers who want to oust the Palestinians altogether and settle the entire territory. So long as Israel pledges to defend the future Palestinian state from invasion, something that would be in its own interest anyway, there is little that the Palestinians can argue against it.
I am not going to tell you that there cannot be any problems related to security with such an arrangement. In fact, there are additional requirements that go along with this security relationship so as to prevent or limit some of them including guerrilla warfare. These would include control of borders including airspace. The Palestinian state would run like the Vatican, operating under Israeli military auspices and border control just as the Vatican operates within the Italian versions. In fact, the Eastern border of the West Bank would have THREE entities each doing their own security checks: Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian authorities. Gaza would also have THREE: Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian authorities. Egypt and Jordan would be most concerned with what comes OUT of those territories while Israel would be most concerned with what comes into them.
Israel, Egypt, and Jordan all like this solution very much. The rest of the Arab world and the Palestinians almost certainly cannot abide it.