May 22, 2011

What is Netanyahu doing?!

Recently I have written less about politics. One of the reasons is that when you are going on public record with a personal opinion you better be well-informed and prepared to handle the reactions. Often I feel either not informed enough or not passionate enough about the issues to write about them. Sometimes however, things need to be said, because politics lives from public discourse and I definitely welcome discussions.

What got me upset was an interaction between two nations, the United States and Israel, and their respective leaders, Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. On May 19th, President Obama held a speech on American foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. He was gracious, welcoming and thoughtful about the chances and risks facing the countries shaken up by the so-called Arab Spring. This movement for democracy has spread from Tunisia to Egypt and is sparking a lot of resistence from the political establishment, resulting in turmoil and violence especially in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Obama pledged support for the young democracies without disputing their right to form their own future without US meddling.

However, it was not his proposed policies that sent the news cycles spinning, but the last part of his speech where he focused on the issue of Israel and Palestine. He said "Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist" and also "The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation". If this sounds even-handed and just to you, you are right. It is completely fair and has been the cornerstone of US policy for a very long time. Just like the following bit: "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." Like I mentioned this is not outlandish, just reasonable and direct, setting up another round of talks that is ultimately meant to secure Israel's standing in the Middle East while ending the violent and horrific oppression of Palestinians.

Netanyahu's reaction however was something to behold. In a statement he let the world know that he "expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004" and enraged a lot of Americans who found it inappropiate for Netanyahu to reprimand the US president who continues to double over ensuring Israel about his support, for proposing that it make some concessions to a lasting peace itself. By taking this position Bibi continues to alienate more and more people outside (and inside) Israel, a tactically very unwise move. Part of his reasoning for not being able to accept the 1967 borders is that demographic changes have occurred that make those lines indefensible. But what seems more indefensible to me is the fact that population density in Israel, even while it is continuing to expand settlements in occupied territory is at 360 people per square kilometer, while in the Gaza strip 4100 people live in that same space inside borders sealed off by Israeli military.

This conflict has been going on for decades and violence has been committed by people on both sides, and today more than ever before it is inequivocal who is preventing a peaceful and just solution. The mind of Netanyahu is a miracle to me, but I am convinced that he is very wrong and needs to change, if he wants this to end well for himself and his country. I hope he will come to his senses soon, because even though I hope he is wrong these are Netanyahu's own words: We don't have a large margin for error and (...) history will not give the Jewish people another chance.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Update August 2, 2011: