Unilateral surprises: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is slated to speak in front of a joint session of the US Congress in a few weeks’ time. In an attempt to preempt a planned Palestinian move seeking statehood in the United Nations, Netanyahu is expected to put forth his own peace initiative. The Prime Minister’s Office has been hyping the speech’s impact, saying it will “surprise the international community.”
But there is no real expectation of surprise.
The consensus in the Israeli press in recent months is that the prime minister has yet to offer any original ideas and is too much of a reactionary to conjure any up now. Editorials and columns in nearly every Israeli newspaper have lamented the lack of any forward-looking vision presented by the man expected to lead Israel into the future.
But what if all of the pundits are wrong and Netanyahu does actually understand that the upcoming “diplomatic tsunami” (as Ehud Barak described) brought on by UN recognition of Palestinian statehood will forever change Israel’s diplomatic standing and chances for a just peace. What if the man who is criticized for having no vision actually has a plan? What if it’s a good plan?
If Netanyahu is to “surprise” the international community with his yet-to-be-presented initiative, there is only one speech he can give.
The prime minister of Israel could stand in front of the 535 men and women of the US Congress and announce an Israeli-sponsored UN resolution to immediately establish the State of Palestine roughly based on pre-1967 armistice lines, with security issues and final borders to be negotiated in subsequent negotiations. He could ask UN member states to donate resources in order to ensure the new country’s successful entry into the peace-loving international community.
If Netanyahu gives such a speech, in all likelihood, he will at the very least succeed in his short-term goal of preempting the majority of UN member states recognizing a Palestinian state on terms unacceptable to Israel and in a fashion that would be paramount to a blanket condemnation of it.
If Netanyahu has reached the same conclusion that the preceding five Israeli prime ministers reached – that only a two-state solution can ensure Israel’s survival – then he might actually give such a speech.
Since taking office two years ago, Netanyahu has been plagued with a Palestinian leadership that essentially refused to hold negotiations with him regardless of his stance toward peace talks. As much was confirmed by WikiLeaks documents released this month documenting meetings between US officials and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his final days in office. Olmert told US diplomats that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was unlikely to ever sit down with Netanyahu, despite the encouraging progress being made in peace negotiations at the time.
Considering that Netanyahu has completely failed at persuading the world of his sincerity in efforts at reaching a peace deal and has had no luck convincing the Israeli public he has any plan at all for solving the 40-plus-year conflict, making a move to unilaterally establish a Palestinian state, before the Palestinians themselves have an opportunity to do so, may be his only way forward.
However unlikely, it is entirely possible that in a few weeks time the Israeli prime minister will stand in front of the US Congress and announce that he will fly directly from Washington to New York to ask the United Nations to recognize and help establish a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 lines. Or not.