Did Netanyahu Really Flip-Flop on the 'Palestinian' State Issue?

[Lee Underwood]

Summary ... Given his past actions and failed promises, along with recent statements, it should be quite obvious that Netanyahu did, in fact, flip-flop on his stance on a 'Palestinian' state. And he knowingly did so in order to win the election.

On March 16, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following statement to the Israeli general public through the NRG Hebrew news site:

"I think that anyone who today would be willing to establish a Palestinian [sic] state and free up space would be giving radical Islam an area from which to launch attacks against Israel. This is the reality that has been created here in recent years. Anyone who ignores this is burying his head in the sand."

The statement was later reported by most of the mainstream media around the world. But there is no question that Netanyahu wanted to make sure the voting citizens of Israel — the real target of the statement — would read or hear about it that evening. It was, after all, the night before Israeli national elections and the polls were showing it to be a close race.

The motive for or intention of the statement has since been written about and discussed many times. Having read many of these articles on both sides of the argument as to whether or not he actually changed his stance, one thing that puzzles me is the argument pointing back to Netanyahu's speech at Bar Ilan University on June 14, 2009. In his statement the night before the elections, Netanyahu never referred to that speech nor did he seek to clarify it later that night. He also never made any statement of that type at anytime prior to the elections, even though Islam has run rampant in the region for many years. While his election eve speech was inconsistent with the one given at Bar Ilan, there was nothing to lead anyone to tie the two together, except for assuming certain facts not in evidence.

One example of this "pointing back" is an article written by Mortimer B. Zuckerman, chairman and editor-in-chief of US News & World Report and the publisher of the New York Daily News. (I'm not highlighting Zuckerman here personally; his argument happens to be one of the more well-defined ones and easier to discuss in this context.) In his article, "The Myth of the Netanyahu Flip-Flop" External link , Zuckerman stated that in his speech back in 2009, Netanyahu clearly said he was in support of the "two-state" solution. And he's right on that point. Zuckerman also went on to reiterated Netanyahu's requirements for a 'Palestinian' state, given also in the Bar Ilan speech: "recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people; ending incitement; demilitarization of areas Israel would evacuate; understanding that the Arab states would agree to justice in their lands for the 'Palestinian' refugees they'd created by making war on the new state of Israel."

PM Benjamin Netanyahu
[Source: The Times of Israel]
He then goes on to list many of the events that followed the Bar Ilan speech, which went against Netanyahu's requirements for the establishment of a 'Palestinian' state. The events, e.g., the incitement of anti-Semitism and the encouragement to murder of Jews by the PA/PLO; the boycotting of Israeli goods; the "Israel Apartheid" campaign; and Iran's continued support for Hizb'Allah and Hamas, are well-known to anyone who follows the news of Israel and the Middle East. It's not like people don't know about it. In fact, there are literally hundreds of articles written about how the PA/PLO has made it very clear they have no intention of ever signing an agreement with Israel (yet there is neither any outcry against the PA/PLO for the violations nor is there any agreement with Israel that it should find a new peace partner).

Back in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak even went so far as to offer to withdraw from 97 percent of Judea and Samaria and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. In addition, he agreed to dismantle 63 isolated Jewish communities. In exchange for the three percent annexation of Judea and Samaria, Israel said it would give up territory in the Negev that would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third. Barak also made previously unthinkable concessions on Jerusalem, agreeing that the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem would become the capital of the new state. The PA/PLO would maintain control over their holy places and have religious sovereignty over the Temple Mount. PA/PLO leader Yasser Arafat was asked to agree to Israeli sovereignty over the parts of the Western Wall religiously significant to Jews (i.e., not the entire Temple Mount), and three early warning stations in the Jordan Valley, which Israel would withdraw from after six years. The truth is that if the Arabs were dissatisfied with any part of the Israeli proposal, all they had to do was offer a counterproposal. They never did. But most important, however, Arafat was expected to agree that the conflict with Israel was over at the end of the negotiations. This was the true deal breaker. Arafat was not willing to end the conflict. "For him to end the conflict is to end himself," said U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross.[1] [2]

While Zuckerman argues that the key word in Netanyahu's election eve speech was "today," Netanyahu, as I stated before, never referenced the Bar Ilan speech. If he had any intention of it playing out as it now has, e.g., flip-flopping on the subject — which does seem to be the case, then he was clearly deceitful to the people of Israel who elected him, even up to the last minute before the election. Zukerman's argument of the "today" statement being "diplomatic-speak" doesn't hold water when you consider he wasn't speaking to another diplomat — he was addressing the general voting public in Israel. In that election eve speech Netanyahu also said creation of the Arab state would give terrorists a place from which to launch attacks, stating, "This is the reality that has been created here in recent years". Those "recent years" would have to go back as far as 2009, if not further, and the following years, during which time Netanyahu was trying to negotiate to establish that state. Yet, according to Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech, his requirements for its establishment were never met at anytime since the speech was given even though he has been open to ongoing negotiations with the PA/PLO.

Another event happened during that same time that lends credence to the plausibility that Netanyahu meant to be deceitful is his statement regarding a 'Palestinian' state. On the same night as his "no 'Palestinian' state" speech, Netanyahu spoke in Har Homa about construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood, promising: "We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the [international] pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital". Yet just eight days after the election he suspended the plan, which would have involved the construction of 1,500 new homes for Jewish residents. Netanyahu's office said he had frozen the plans due to their "political sensitivity" (in earlier years this was referred to as a "construction freeze"). This is not the result of a sudden change in the political landscape. Nothing had happened between the day before the election and eight days later. This leaves only one alternative: he never had any intention of approving the construction of the new homes in the first place. But then just 15 days after the election — and seven days after Netanyahu froze Jewish construction in Jerusalem — the Jerusalem Municipality approved a project to build 2,500 housing units for Arabs only in Jabel Mukaber External link, in southern Jerusalem. This will be the largest construction project for Arabs in Jerusalem since 1967.

Despite a population growth of 3%-4%, new Jewish construction starts in Judea and Samaria External link have been lower the past five years (when Netanyahu began his second term in 2009), except for 2013, than in the entire 14 year period prior to that, beginning when Netanyahu first took office in 1996 as prime minister. During his tenure since 2009 Netanyahu froze new settlement construction several times, with extensions, in an attempt to appease the United States and the PA/PLO (which, of course, it didn't do).

In conclusion, given his past actions and failed promises, along with recent statements and other actions, it should be quite obvious that Netanyahu did, in fact, flip-flop on his stance on a 'Palestinian' state. And he knowingly did so in order to win the election. (His statement, "the Arabs are voting in droves", made a few hours before the polls closed showed his desperation and just added more fuel to the fire.)


[1] "Proceedings and Debates of the 107th Congress, 2nd Session, Vol. 148-Part 4," US Congressional Record, (April 11--24, 2002), p. 5174. [return]
[2] Myths & Facts: The Peace Process (Chapter 19), Jewish Virtual Library [return]

[ Published: April 5, 2015 ]

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