Thursday, March 03, 2011

Netanyahu's Regression

Haaretz reported yesterday that Benjamin Netanyahu is going to change course on the peace process. He'll deliver a big speech, perhaps before the United States Congress, in which he will declare that he now wishes to reach another interim agreement with the Palestinians. This is probably the big move, the grand initiative, which he promised German Chancellor Angela Merkel he'd make.

Until recently, Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had one basic thing in common. They both expressed a desire to reach a final peace deal and opposed more interim steps. They were far from agreeing on what would be in that final deal, and one or both of them may not have been very serious about reaching it, but at least at the declaratory level, they agreed on a basic goal.

Now, under the guise of a grand gesture that will bring peace closer, Netanyahu is actually regressing. He's doing something I thought was impossible at this low point: he has widened the gulf between Israel and the Palestinians even more. He has adopted Avigdor Lieberman's idea of a Palestinian State with temporary borders, encompassing 60% of the West Bank, which the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected. They understandably fear that the temporary will become permanent.

Netanyahu needs to come up with a real grand gesture. He needs to think of something new that has some chance of winning Palestinian and international support. He can't regurgitate old ideas that the Palestinians have consistently opposed.

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