Naomi Schacter

And about the Bar-Ilan statements….never mind

By retracting his commitment to a two-state solution, Netanyahu has compromised himself on any other issue

The most recent headlines report Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backing away from his commitment to a two-state solution, as he pledged in his speech at Bar Ilan University in June 2009. How we all clung to those words, with which he expressed support for creating a Palestinian state and pursuing a just and lasting peace (with lots of caveats, but still….). But now he claims it is no longer possible, due to the rise of terrorism in the region.

I am sure that you are as saturated as I with analysis of and discussion about Bibi’s speech in Congress. I have no intention of getting into that — enough has been said already. But I will note that I thought it was a strong talk in a totally but totally inappropriate setting, and he came off as way too arrogant and condescending towards the office of the President of the United States, no matter what his personal relationship with the President is, as he presumptuously chided the great superpower about its “bad deal” looming with Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel. He has every right, even the responsibility, to be very concerned about the nuclear capacity of Iran, and he rightly sees it as his mission to convey his ideas about what is wrong and right with the current negotiations. But what Bibi seems unable to acknowledge is that his non-stop tirade about Iran, and only about Iran, has created the reality that his message precisely about Iran is not heard as clearly as it should be. He has lost force and credibility as the messenger of dire warnings. Now that he has retracted his commitment to a two-state solution with flimsy electioneering excuses, he has compromised himself even further on any other issue.

If Bibi were not such a one-trick pony, if he visibly invested interest, passion, energy and creativity in other regional challenges of world interest, not to mention local social economic issues, his message regarding Iran might in fact be heard as the strong and urgent viewpoint of a serious leader.

Just imagine if Bibi used world platforms to talk about peace, Israel’s deep interest in finding a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and establishing a Palestinian state, bringing the settlements under control, and so forth —just imagine how he might then be heard. If he had gone to AIPAC (or for that matter, Congress in an appropriately bipartisan fashion), or the United Nations, with a message of peace, of commitment to a peace process, with creative and sincere ideas about how to move that forward (and there are many creative models floating out there) — just imagine the kind of leader he would be appear to be.

We want a leader that recognizes the need to change the so-called status quo (which is an illusion, anyway, because just as things seem to remain as they are, they are actually getting worse — the Middle East is one of the most dynamic places on earth!). Bibi’s voice could and would resonate about Iran if he were also serious about pursuing peace with our neighbors, instead of continuing to block any serious effort from either side. And now, in one fell swoop, even the fragment of hope in which we have indulged these past six years regarding his commitment to a two-state solution and earnest peace efforts — is gone with the wind.

About the Author
Naomi Schacter is Director of International Relations in the National Library of Israel. The views expressed herein reflect her personal opinions.