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Netanyahu Strikes a Peace Deal with the US Congress


Ibrahim Karsany

Former Director, Public Policy Division

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If the Prime Minister of Israel was looking for a peace deal with the US Congress, then he certainly got it May 24, 2011. In a speech which lasted for more than an hour, Benjamin Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations, more than the 25 which the president of the United States himself has received during his State of the Union address earlier in the year.  The Congress clearly endorsed a speech which amounted to Mr. Netanyahus  declaration of war, as so many commentators had described it.
Mr. Netanyahu continually claims that he is looking for a lasting peace with the Palestinians with a Road Map of his own, which not only rejects the plan of the U.S President for peace, but destroys whatever remains of any sound foundation of a realistic peace deal in the Middle East. To stress his point, Mr. Netanyahu used the word peace more than 50 times during his speech.
The Israeli Prime Ministers peace plan is composed of the following points:
- No return to pre-June 1967 borders
- Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state
- Return of the Palestinian refugees is a fantasy, a problem to be resolved outside the borders of the Jewish state
-- Undivided Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel
- A demilitarized Palestinian State
- Jewish settlements remain beyond Israeli borders
These six points essentially constituted a peace agreement between the Israeli prime minister and the US Congress.  But the real question remains, Is Mr. Netanyahu looking for peace with the representatives of the American people or with the Palestinians?   If he is looking for peace with the former, then he has got it, but if he is looking for it with the latter, then he must stop living in a different world.
The Israeli prime minister was certainly overwhelmed by the warm welcome he received in the US Congress.   But if he is looking for a genuine and lasting peace in the Middle East, then he has to strike a deal, not with those representatives but, instead, with the Palestinians, his neighbors.   The deal must also include the Muslim world at large because Jerusalem is an issue all of these share.
Since the Israeli-Arab conflict is a political issue, with a religious dimension, and not vice versa, it must be resolved on a sound political basis, which takes into consideration the interests of all the concerned parties.  Arabs of different religious beliefs, whether Jews, Christians or Muslims, are all Semites and have inhabited the land of Palestine for centuries. Since Judaism is a religion and not a nationality, it seems misleading  to claim that Jews, from all over the world, have got the automatic right of return to Israel, while denying the same right for the Palestinian refugees. Hence, insisting on the creation of a pure Jewish state cannot be a basis for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The war which the Israeli prime minister declared from the podium of the US Congress, with the objective of securing a lasting peace for his Jewish state, may yield the war, but not the peace. Instead of destroying Hamas and Hizb Allah and weakening Iranthe enemies of Israel that he mentioned by name, Mr. Netanyahu may destabilize his own state.
Indeed, Mr. Netanyahu, according to his own words, is the one who is living in a fantasy world. The realities on the ground will almost certainly force him to come to his senses one day, if he survives as an Israeli prime minister for long.  Realities may compel him to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians, and not the U.S Congress. Then, and only then, will the Israeli prime minister, whoever he is, start talking the peace language, instead of the war language which for some Mr. Netanyahu has skillfully disguised as a tasteful, diplomatic statement.

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