Giving speeches, but ready to talk?
Israel news flooded the media this week, as several high profile speeches had journalists and their readers alike posturing about what it all meant.
President Obama was the first to enter the arena with a speech at AIPAC’s Policy Conference on May 22. The questions and concerns over Obama’s call last week that Israel should return to it’s 1967 borders lingered. Would he retract the statement? Clarify it? Reinforce it?
Arguably, he did the second.
“By definition, [last week’s statement] means that the parties them- selves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” said Obama. “The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and… the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.”
Fair enough, though vague — new borders, but not necessarily the 1967 lines that thinned parts of Israel to only nine miles.
Next came Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech, shortly followed by his address to a joint session of Congress, during which he explicitly endorsed a Palestinian state, but one that did not reach near the 1967 borders — allowing for what he saw as a defensible mass of Israeli land. Bibi dug into the Hamas-Fatah partnership, saying “Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism.”
He continued, “Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.”
Fair enough as well.
And then came the resulting statement from the Palestinians. Palestin- ian Authority President Mahmoud Ab- bas, speaking to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and with reporters, said that “”Our first choice is negotia- tions, but if there is no progress before September we will go to the United Nations,” to appeal for statehood.
It seems that everyone is ready to talk, right?
Unfortunately, no. Netanyahu won’t sit down to negotiate until Abbas breaks ties with Hamas. Abbas won’t sit down to negotiate until Netanyahu accepts borders the latter described as “indefensible.”
So now what?
As one Haaretz blog post stated, “The last few days in the U.S. capital showcased all the stages of what has become a familiar and unfortunate pattern in U.S.-Israeli relations over the last two and a half years: crisis, fence-mending and relief — only to start all over again during the next visit by top officials to either Washington or Jerusalem.”
There are too many preconditions to get these men in a room together for it to happen. Peace will not be an easy map to navigate, but it is simply impossible if the communication between them is through speeches and media posturing rather than talking to each other. Call us naïve or idealistic, but why not give a conversation a try?