Monday, June 15, 2009

Will they hear him?

Yesterday's foreign policy speech by Benjamin Netanyahu provides an enlightening illustration of the capacity for self-delusion – an astounding instance of just how far off the plain meaning interpretation can be spun.

The Democratic "liberal" press are interpreting Netanyahu as having departed significantly and importantly from his hard-line opposition to the two-state solution; and in so doing providing president Obama with much of what he needs to co-opt the Arab world to his utopian vision of a regional peace. This interpretation adds to the impression that these Obamites have of their leader as someone who will benignly nudge Israel in the direction it needs to go Рgood for Israel good for America. And seeing this they give themselves one more pat on the back for voting for him. This includes most prominently the 78% of American Jews who voted for him, who continue reverently to sing his praises at every opportunity. I am as disgusted as I am frustrated at this unseemly arrogance and naivet̩.

The only accurate interpretation of Netanyahu's speech is the one provided by the Arab press (how ironic!). They correctly understand that Netanyahu greatly clarified his continued opposition to their vision of a two-state solution. He did not move an inch toward Obama, but he did provide an articulate, reasoned explanation. A "two-state" solution is an empty phrase until one spells out the kind of states we are talking about. Israel is already a functioning, mature nation-state, operating under the rule of law, providing opportunities and free-choices for its citizens. It is also the only Jewish state in the world, in which capacity it provides a spiritual center for all identifying Jews around the world. There are at least 20 countries who identify as Islamic nations. They are all repressive dictatorships committed to the destruction of Israel. What kind of state is the Palestinian state going to be in this "two-state" story? That is the main, almost the only, theme in Netanyahu's address.

Do the fuzzy thinkers really think they can conjure to life a peaceful, secure neighbor from what now exists on the ground in the Palestinian territories? That would be nice. Who would not want that? Who would not accept that? Bring it about, says Netanyahu, and we will embrace it. Just make sure that in the process of trying, a belligerent, militarized alternative does not result. It would not be the first time.

As it stands there is no hope for a two-state solution that could satisfy Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world. Netanyahu explained why. In so doing he did not move closer to the two-state solution and to Obama. Rather he delineated clearly the differences between them. This is not a cause for celebration – though I personally greatly welcome the clarity provided. It is rather a cause for concern – concern that Obama, with the support of the influential American Jewish community will pressure Israel into costly and exceedingly dangerous concessions – concessions that will cost lives as well as dollars.

Netanyahu spoke clearly to those who care to read what he said and not what they wish he had said. I cannot improve on it. But it is worth emphasizing one key point. The central stumbling block to any kind of peaceful coexistence is a refusal to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a national Jewish homeland. The whole Palestinian "problem" is dedicated to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish state. Before any kind of progress toward peaceful coexistence can be made, a credible recognition of Israel's right to exist must be given. As Netanyahu explains, Israel did not create the Palestinian problem and it cannot solve it. The Arab world created it and it does not want to solve it. Israel is an insult to the Islamic world. According to Islam, a non-Moslem governing body cannot be established in territory that was once in the heart of the Islamic empire. As the only valid religion, Islam has a claim on the entire world – the continued prominent existence of a successful, western, Jewish state in the heart of the Middle East is intolerable. This is not a controversial point of view held by a radical fringe in the Moslem world. It is a commonly held point of view – shared by hundreds of millions of Moslems. The Palestinians are pawns in this struggle. And the settlements have almost no relevance in the big picture.

The Obama-liberals great mistake is one of cultural arrogance. They assume that everyone thinks, or can be made to think, like they do. Netanyahu was addressing them as much as anyone. But will they hear him?