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Monday, June 08, 2009

Netanyahu to make major foreign policy address next Sunday

Behaving more like an American President than like an Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu will make a major foreign policy address to lay out what the Jerusalem Post calls his 'peace vision' at Bar Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center next Sunday.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that National Security Council head Uzi Arad approached the BESA Center on Friday and asked if it would host the address. The BESA Center had been asking Netanyahu to come speak since his election in February.

The prime minister will reportedly discuss options for a demilitarized Palestinian state, including the "Andorra Plan," modeled on the prosperous, landlocked democracy located in the Pyrenees mountains.

Responsibility for defending Andorra rests with Spain and France. Andorra has a very limited, nominal military force, used for ceremonial purposes only.

Sources close to Netanyahu said he was becoming increasingly frustrated that people were "putting words in his mouth," and felt the time had come to lay out where he planned to lead the country in the realm of foreign policy, diplomacy and security.
Netanyahu's decision to present his plan to BESA and not in a speech before the circus Knesset has raised some eyebrows here.
The choice of BESA as the site of the speech is seen as significant, since - as one government source said, pointing to Obama's recent speech in Cairo - "location obviously matters."

The BESA Center is a respected institution that has connections with a number of other top-tier think tanks around the world. It identifies itself as center-right on the political spectrum, and in recent years has swum against the popular tide among the country's intelligentsia.

For instance, the head of the center, Efraim Inbar, recently published a paper on "The Rise and Demise of the Two-State Paradigm."

"The two-state paradigm has a long pedigree and current popularity in contemporary academic and diplomatic circles, but it has no chance of achieving a stable and peaceful outcome in the coming decades," Inbar wrote in the treatise, released in January. "It is an obsolete paradigm."

Instead, Inbar called for a "regional approach" to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy whereby Palestinian areas would be linked again to Egypt and Jordan, and the conflict would be "managed - not solved."
Netanyahu's choice of location has brought criticism from Knesset members on both sides of the aisle.
Commenting on Netanyahu’s choice of venue, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that “Prime Ministers in Israel have a worrying tendency – which sometimes indicates cowardice – to prefer places where no one argues with them. We saw this in Sharon’s and Olmert’s days, and there is concern that Netanyahu is on the same track, not just in his choice of place and podium but also in order to sound similar messages of surrender,” he warned.

“It is impossible to understand why Israeli prime ministers who head a large and stable coalition are afraid to make their political stands public at the Knesset,” Eldad added. “If someone is afraid of a few catcalls from the benches of his party and those of the national opposition, how will he face pressures from the United States?”, he asked.


Meretz faction whip, MK Ilan Gilon [Why does a faction with three members need a 'whip'? CiJ], said that “if Netanyahu has something to say, he should say it from behind the Knesset podium and not at Bar Ilan, which he may see as the Israeli equivalent of Al-Azhar University [where U.S. President Barack Obama gave his speech last week].”

“We know that good things do not always come out of Bar Ilan University,” Gilon said, in a reference to Yigal Amir, the Bar Ilan student who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in 1995.
In addition to the speech's substance, the form may not please the Americans. It seems that Netanyahu still has no intention of using the magic words 'two states for two people.'
Those close to Netanyahu believe the prime minister will not employ the 'two states for two peoples' terminology which the US administration views as a litmus test. Netanyahu is expected to try and abate the tensions that have arisen opposite Washington over the settlement issue and express Israel's willingness to tackle the illegal outposts in the West Bank.

The components of the prime minister's speech are still under wraps as Netanyahu and his close advisors are playing this one close to the chest. The speech is being prepared alongside increased efforts to work out Netanyahu's final stance on the key issues at hand – the Palestinian conflict, the advancement of regional ties with moderate Arab states, and the possible renewal of talks with Syria.
Although Netanyahu is a member of the Knesset, he has always liked doing things the American way. And since he is the functional head of state, it might make sense for him to take a page out of Obama's book and make a speech like this in a more appropriate place with a quieter atmosphere than the Knesset. How often does the President of the United States speak to joint sessions of Congress? Not very often - and Congress is a lot more civil than the Knesset.

Let the media debate the speech's form for the next week and let Bibi work on its substance in solitude. Over the last couple of months, many people seem to have forgotten that whatever else you can say about him, he was always one of our most effective communicators.


At 8:54 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Benjamin Netanyahu has always been able to lay out Israel's case far better than any other Israeli politician, whatever his personal shortcomings. For that reason alone, Israel's leftist media hates him - no one in Israel is quite as good him in exposing the absurdity of their position that all is Israel has to do is continue to give and it will have peace. That's not been the case for the past 16 years. And his refusal to accept the so-called two state solution has driven them to the point of complete despair.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

Bibi is absolutely Israel's best hope right now. When communication tops every other quality in a politician (look at Obama who is a great communicator but completely empty of any substance), I think that Bibi has a great opportunity to set the record straight on where he (and Israel) stands on these major issues.
Unfortunately, I am not really sure the world cares. As long as Bibi doesn't say "we are willing to commit suicide" or "we accet the Saudi plan verbatim", you will see that the reactions to his speech will be written even before he speaks. Look for the constant repetition of the expressions "ultra-nationalist", "hawkish", "extreme-right", "warmonger", etc...


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