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The new Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be sworn in today at 7 p.m. local time.
On Wednesday, the Israeli government presented its coalition guidelines, which states, among others things:
The government will advance the diplomatic process and strive to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and all our neighbors while maintaining Israel’s security, historical and national interests.
This statement was the second in a long list of 18 of the government’s policy priorities. Other top goals include reducing the cost of living, promoting immigration and integration, protecting minority rights, and protecting the environment.
The guidelines also state, “The Jewish people have the undisputable right to a sovereign state in the Land of Israel, its national and historic homeland.”
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Absent from the statement about the Palestinians was the so-called two-state solution. Netanyahu made it clear just before the March 18 election that he expected a Palestinian state would not be established under his watch.
After his resounding victory in the election, Netanyahu somewhat backtracked on his statement after he was rebuked by the Obama administration and the European Union.
Administration officials later stated they were skeptical about Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution and were therefore re-evaluating their approach to promoting direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
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This would leave open the possibility of withdrawing traditional diplomatic U.S. support for Israel at the U.N. and possibly even supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing the terms of an agreement on Israel, a move Washington has opposed in the past.
Although the released coalition guidelines now clarify that the new government will pursue a negotiated solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, it is almost certain this does not mean Israel feels it is committed to the two-state solution at this point.
Netanyahu has made it clear that the transfer of any territory in the heartland of Israel will result in an Islamist takeover of the West Bank and rockets on Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport, and other vital areas.
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President Obama seems to be on a new collision course with Israel over the Palestinian state issue.
In an interview with London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, the president said, “the Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it,” and, “they deserve to live in an independent, sovereign state, where they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity.”
He then added something that could be interpreted as a threat to the new Israeli government:
With the breakdown of talks, simmering tension in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, last summer’s conflict in Gaza, and serious questions about an overall commitment to a two-state outcome, it’s no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward. As a result, the United States is taking a hard look at our approach to the conflict.
We look to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians to demonstrate—through policies and actions—a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Only then can trust be rebuilt and a cycle of escalation avoided.
Addressing the lasting impact in Gaza of last summer’s conflict should also be central to any effort. Ultimately, the parties will need to address not just Gaza’s immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs, but also core challenges to Gaza’s future within a two-state context, including reinvigorating Gaza’s connection with the West Bank and reestablishing strong commercial links with Israel and the global economy.
The Israel Project reacted to the president’s statement, saying he omitted the fact that the Palestinian Authority remains committed to its unity government with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas, which has not accepted the Quartet’s principles of recognizing the state of Israel.
“He also did not demand that the Palestinians reject violence and that they adhere to previous agreements made between the PLO and Israel. And he didn’t say a word about the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian factions continue to call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” according to The Israel Project.
Today, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reported the PA leadership has set May 15 as a day of national mourning over the “Nakba” (“Disaster,” meaning the establishment of the State of Israel), during which a siren of “mourning” would be sounded for 67 seconds – the number of years since Israel’s establishment. Churches have also been advised to ring their bells in “mourning” over the creation of Israel. Abu Toameh also reported that Hamas leader Ahmed Bahr has announced his movement was preparing 100,000 fighters “to liberate Palestine.”
Israeli commentators pointed out that when the president spoke about the indignities of the occupation and the dignity that would come when the Palestinians have their own state, he seemed to echo statements made by Palestinian leaders who used to protest Israeli security measures in this way.
It is generally known that Israel built checkpoints and a security barrier to stop Palestinians from committing acts of terror, they said
Just today, Palestinians in the Gush Etzion area near Jerusalem tried to kill four Israeli youths at a hitchhiker station near the Jewish community of Alon Shvut. The same station has been the spot of previous terrorist attacks. In November 2014, Dalia Lemkus, a 26-year-old woman of the Tekoa community, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian close to the place of the terror attack today and just a few hundred meters from the site where, in July 2014, three Jewish boys were kidnapped and murdered by two Hamas terrorists.
Others pointed out that when the president spoke of the dignity that will come when the Palestinians live in their own state, he only has to look at what happened in Gaza after the IDF withdrawal in 2005. At the time, many in Israel and abroad expected the same kind of dignity for the Palestinians there; but since Hamas violently took control in 2007 and started three wars against Israel over the last six years, few Palestinians live in dignity in the Gaza Strip.
Today, 42.8% of the working-age Palestinian population in Gaza is unemployed, and the poverty rate is 65%, according to data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in a report from the beginning of 2015.
Reacting to the dignity comment by Obama, Dr. Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) in Israel put it this way:
President Obama mentions “dignity” twice in one sentence.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that “dignity” is some noble criteria. A purely positive and innocent requirement.
Because, any security measure can be interpreted as being undignified.
What kind of dignity is there if shipments entering Palestinian territories are subject to inspection?
What kind of dignity is there if the sovereign state of Palestine is subject to measures to insure that weapons restrictions are honored?
What kind of dignity is there if Palestinians are arrested just because they murdered some Israelis?
What kind of dignity is there if the Palestinians are prevented from marching into Israel to stake out their claims on properties they say their families left in 1948?
Taken to its ultimate conclusion, Palestinian dignity is offended by the very existence of the Jewish State!
No. “Dignity” is anything but a purely positive and innocent requirement.
I might add that it is an incredibly hypocritical position when one considers that the United States has absolutely no problem violating the dignity of hundreds of thousands of airline passengers each day in the name of security.