Israel fortifies opposition to peace

Obama and Netanyahu in the Oval Office

(Updated below)

Like Presidents Clinton and Carter before him, Barack Obama is trying to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As a start, Obama asked Israel to stop expanding settlements, a.k.a. stealing Palestinian land. However, just yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an important part of Obama’s request:

“In my conversation with [U.S. President Barack] Obama in Washington, I told him that I could not accept any limitations on our sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu went on to explain that “Jerusalem is not a settlement, and it has nothing to do with discussions on a freeze.” Which isn’t true. East Jerusalem, where Israel is planning a new housing development, was seized by the Israelis in the Six Day War of 1967. The United Nations does not recognize Israel’s “sovereignty” over East Jerusalem, and any Israeli expansion on that land is illegal under international law.

Leaving aside East Jerusalem’s legal status, it is undeniably at the heart of the war over land between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the home of sacred religious landmarks like the Temple Mount and Western Wall. Any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will have to address the emotional subject of control over Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s assertion of “sovereignty” over the entire city dooms any prospect of peace during his term as Prime Minister. Which just might be the point.

Recently, Netanyahu’s father had this to say when asked if his son supports the creation of a Palestinian state:

“He does not support it. He supports such conditions that they [the Palestinians] will never accept it. That’s what I heard from him. I didn’t propose these conditions, he did. They will never accept these conditions. Not one of them.”

And the trouble is we can’t just wait for Netanyahu to leave or get voted out of office. If Israel doesn’t stop the settlements soon, especially those in East Jerusalem, a two-state solution will become impossible.

Update

Yglesias weighs in with a post titled Yes, of Course Netanyahu’s Commitment to Peace is Disingenuous:

The Obama administration’s words on the Israel-Arab conflict have been admirable, but it’s becoming clear that more than words will be needed.

3 Comments

  1. A Palestinian state, would be a source of cheap labor. The government if run by Fatah or Hamas, would be a ruthless dictatorship.

    It’s hard to explain quickly. You should read my posts about Gaza. In essence there is not a national answer to the problem. Socialism in Egypt, would be the Palestinians best hope. It is too late in history, for new states.

  2. Chris

    The Palestinians are already a source of cheap labor for the Palestinians. Perhaps the Israeli government wants to keep it that way? I personally think Israeli leaders are more likely motivated by nationalist pride and racism.

  3. Ian

    Hey at least then the Palestinians might have jobs.