Geneva Initiative Annexes
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The Speech that Wasn't

The Speech that Wasn't

by Gilly Harpaz, Geneva Initiative Spokesperson, Maariv

8.10.2013
The "Bar Ilan 2" Speech remains rooted in the past and did not offer a vision for how to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu, who should be acting as a leader, preferred to speak like a historian.
 
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered what could have been his “Bar Ilan 2” speech, but it was closer to an encore to his address at the UN last week. There were no disappointments because there weren’t any real expectations. We didn’t see advance notice in the media that included leaks from the speech or promises of a far-reaching declaration in the style of: “Netanyahu is about to surprise everybody.” The speech didn’t provide spectacular headlines and was far from piquing foreign interest, unlike his first Bar Ilan speech.
 
As was expected, the speech began with Iran. The Prime Minister again spoke out against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive, spoke knowledgably about centrifuges, uranium and plutonium, and gave policy advice to the international community. Even his gimmick of the week “if they dismantle - they’ll get”, which was recycled from the period of the Wye River Memorandum and at the time referred to the Palestinians “if they give - they’ll get”, was directed at Iran.
 
The Prime Minister’s agenda continues to focus primarily on Iran, with the Palestinian issue being perceived as of marginal interest. With regard to the Palestinian issue he is focused on the irrelevant questions of who Netanyahu thinks started the conflict (the Palestinians), when exactly they started it (the attack on Beit Hapoalim in Jaffa in 1921), and which issues do not, in fact, constitute the root of the problem (the occupation, the territories and the settlements). Netanyahu’s rhetoric actually highlights the real root of the problem: the obsessive preoccupation with the past and the absence of a political vision for the future. Israelis, Palestinians, right wingers and left wingers have been frequently dragged into a discourse of mutual accusations. Those who are no interested in ending the conflict can keep on arguing about the exact date on which it broke out, but they won’t bring us any closer to a solution.
 
During his speech, the Prime Minister spoke more like a historian’s son, and less like a leader who is supposed to outline policy and say “Follow me!” He was like a little boy who points at the neighbor’s son with whom he was fighting, accuses him of starting the fight, talks a lot about what didn't happen but says very little about what did. Netanyahu says that in order to solve the problem, we must get down to the root cause. True, the past is important and we cannot ignore it. Years of bloody drawn-out conflict won’t be erased with the stroke of a pen on the White House lawn, but reaching a diplomatic solution does not require agreement on the exact date on which the conflict broke out. There’s also no need to agree over who is more to blame, Israel or the Palestinians. It is enough to examine the real red lines of both sides in light of existing pragmatic solutions.
 
The prime minister again repeated his red lines in his speech last night: the Palestinian state must be demilitarized, there must be clear security arrangements, it must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and relinquish the return of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas uses every possible platform to present the Palestinian red lines: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Israeli and Palestinian red lines are not mutually exclusive, and the existing solutions (the Clinton parameters, the Geneva Initiative, the Annapolis proposals) provide an answer to both sides’ essential interests.
 
Recently, a booklet was issued to elementary schools by the IDF Home Front Command entitled “Student, Always Be Prepared” which has enraged many internet users. The booklet was intended to prepare fifth-graders for emergency situations, and teaches them about the differences between war and a terrorist attack and about different kinds of rockets, amongst other issues. It encourages them to hear war stories from their parents and to take responsibility to ensure that their homes are properly protected against missile attacks. Most of us grew up in the shadow of Israel’s wars, and we accept that the complex reality of our lives here is a necessary evil. Our leaders give good speeches about how we have reached this situation. Now it is time for us to demand that they show us where we are going from here.