Friday, June 12, 2009

Israel compromises....or gets smart?

The Washington Post recently leaked that Netanyahu, Israel's conservative PM, will be delivering a speech on Sunday that yields on Palestinian sovereignty. I wasn't expecting this move so soon, especially from a member of the Likhud party. Although I've heard from various people (Gabe Weiner, who is currently in Israel, being one of them), that Obama's Jun 4th appeal to the Muslim world wasn't as poorly received in Israel and many perceive, I still am surprised that Netanyahu would concede so fast. I assumed that perhaps this is a result of Western-pandering that Israel knows it needs to do in order to gain political capital on the macrocosmic level. Or maybe Netanyahu is actually loosening his campaign promises in exchange for Obama-led pragmatism. Luckily, I was proven wrong when I saw the terms he outlined:

• Any Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without an air force, full-fledged army or heavy weapons.

• Palestinians may not sign treaties with powers hostile to Israel.

• A Palestinian state must allow Israeli civilian and military aircraft unfettered access to Palestinian airspace, allow Israel to retain control of the airwaves and to station Israeli troops on a future state's eastern and southern borders.

• Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state, a nod to the hawkish side of Mr. Netanyahu's governing coalition that has raised concerns that the Palestinian Authority, which nominally governs the West Bank, does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Many liberal bloggers are saying that the Israeli PM is moving forward with agenda items that need much more foundation-building (and old-promise-fulfilling) to actualize. If this is true, then I say Netanyahu is doing exactly what he should be doing by appeasing to the relevant parties while still sticking true to his ideology. I don't necessarily think that Netanyahu is playing a political game as much as he is initiating a dialogue. I mean, let's be real....this is a strict (at best) set of demands, and its more symbolic than anything.

One interesting point in this is what many have been calling the "Obama Effect" and what part that may have played in the PM's decision to speak on this so soon. The Lebanese elections of this week, which brought to power a pro-Western coalition, along with the rise to prominence of presidential candidate Mousavi against the incumbent Ahmadinejad (the victory is claimed by both) indicates a new global pattern of Western acceptance, supposedly initiated by Obama's person and policy. (Whether or not I believe this is true is another thing.....sure, Obama is awesome and amazing, but I think the point here is that Bush was just THAT bad. Also, people should figure economics into it as well - with America not necessarily looming as an economic hegemon anymore, countries and diplomats might view its vulnerability sympathetically. For once, everyone (including America) is in the same boat, and so America need not be viewed as the threat it used to be). Indeed, imaginary borders have been deconstructed since Obama's election into office, and maybe Netanyahu's speech is a testament to this.

Regardless, I'm interested to see what the response will be from the Israeli right on this as well as from the American government. The PM's timing is impeccable - it'll be after the Iranian presidential victor is declared (so that its threat as a hostile nuclear power can be assessed and accommodated into the speech's content), and before any Arab nations have made a public speech on Israel-Palestine policy (correct me if I'm wrong?). I guess I'm also selfishly interested in this because it might dictate the tone Pakistan will take with India about Kashmir. Although Obama has said that he will not interfere with Kashmir, his handling of Israel and Palestinian "peace talks" will play a role in any decisions that may be made in Kashmir.

Anyways, on the whole, a job well-done, Netanyahu. Let's see what the future will bring. And more importantly, which, if any points, are even going to be put forth in the final compromise!


champgetsinshape said...

isnt this incredible, who would have thought that the US appearing "weak" would actually bring peace to the middle east?

Michelle Strausman said...

Great article, Meghana! I'm interested in seeing how the citizens of Israel react. My dad always mentions that even thought Netanyahu is very conservative (and Liberman is even worse!) the people wanted that and that's why he won. Although in my opinion he shouldn't have won, he was just able to form a coalition before Livni. I really do hope that there is some sort of peace soon. Earlier this week there was a blood battle betw. Hamas and Fatah.


The step taken is very positive in nature and at least some thoughts have been generated to bring peace in this chaotic world !!!

Aditya Raj Kaul said...

Good Good..

I like the content of your piece coming from a Political Science student indeed. :)