Bibi must make clear to our US allies where we stand on key issues
by Ari Harow
For those who closely follow American politics, there was a strong sense of déjà vu as last week's elections results started coming in. Once again a newly elected popular president watched his poll numbers drop as initial euphoria evaporates once the harsh economic realities refuse to disappear and it becomes apparent that all can not be cured with a few speeches.
Here in Israel the immediate question that inevitably crops up once the dust has settled is: "what does this mean for us?" While the long-term answer to this question is heatedly debated, what is clear is that this new political reality offers a unique window of opportunity for Prime Minister Netanyahu to further clarify and crystallize Israel's red lines in negotiation with the Palestinians when he meets with key administration officials in the United States this week.
The professional pundit class seems split in their predictions on how President Obama will react to last weeks "shellacking" of Democrats.
Some think that the president will realize that the American public is disappointed with his performance to date, resulting in a refocusing of his efforts on his domestic agenda and attempting to turn the economy around with the hope of salvaging the remainder of his term, and winning reelection in 2012.
Other experts warn that once it becomes apparent to Obama that there is little he can do within his power to actually lower the stubbornly high unemployment rate, he will turn to overseas adventures where the president has much more authority to act without congressional approval. This path may very well result in a renewed effort by the Administration to reach their stated goal of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement within a year. Needless to say, Israel's best interests may not be at the top of the agenda for an Administration that is racing to hold a South Lawn ceremony within 10 months.
As President Obama and his advisors contemplate which of these paths to chose, it is vital that Prime Minister Netanyahu take this opportunity to once again clearly state Israel's red lines in negotiating with the Palestinians. Whether this clarification serves to bolster our friends in Congress, or remind the Administration as they plan any new initiatives, it is crucial that our American allies understand where we stand on these issues as we inch closer to returning to direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
Thankfully, the prime minister does not need to start from scratch. In his historic speech at Bar Ilan University in June of 2009, Netanyahu laid out three key areas where Israel's red lines cannot be crossed.
The Palestinians must agree to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. While some Palestinians have belittled this demand as an unnecessary game of semantics, nothing can be further from the truth. We unfortunately are witnesses on a daily basis to the indoctrination of the next generation of Palestinians as children are taught to deny the Jewish people's right to a state in ANY part of the Land of Israel.
This is the message that Palestinian youths are taught in official Palestinian Authority schools, broadcasts and even in children programming. We cannot hope to live in peace with neighbors who do not believe that we have even the most basic right of existence in this land.
Jerusalem cannot be divided
Israel must remain within defensible borders as the result of any peace agreement. We cannot compromise on territorial concessions in the Jordan Valley or on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria which overlook the center of our country. We have learned the lessons of the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals and we simply cannot let ourselves repeat these mistakes when the population centers of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the strategic Ben Gurion Airport are at stake.
Finally, Jerusalem can never be divided again. Jerusalem – Zion itself – is the raison d'être for our national existence here in Israel and it is the glue that holds the entire Jewish people together. We are already witness to a steady elimination of our sovereignty in the capital. Daily news reports are full of stories of PA officials funding schools and social clubs, ambulances refusing to serve certain neighborhoods due to stone throwing, and Jews fearing to visit the graves of their ancestors on the Mount of Olives where they are subjected to daily violent attacks.
Without a clear stance on this most basic issue we will soon find ourselves chased out of the city we dreamed of for 2,000 years.
As fate (or good planning) would have it, the prime minister finds himself in the US this week meeting with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton during this pivotal period. Now is the time to explain to these and other Administration officials that just as the US has vital interests that it works tirelessly to safeguard, Israel too must stand strong on our principles or the chance of reaching a just, lasting and true peace will quickly fade and collapse as happened too many times in the past.
The new Congress in Washington, and the policy choices that the Administration will soon make, present an opportunity for the prime minister to reiterate and elaborate on the important points that he made in his Bar Ilan speech. These points are all vital in ensuring that Israel's basic interests are protected.
I hope that the prime minister makes the most of his trip to the US this week and ensures that all of our friends in Washington know that while our yearning for peace is genuine and strong, Israel will not waver on these key fundamental issues.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -