A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
May 24, 2011 Prime Minister Netanyahu Speaks to Congress
If Prime Minster Netanyahu was "just another politician", as his Washington visit comes to a close, I would write, "pity Bibi". However, since he is the Prime Minister, I must say, "pity us all". Netanyahu went further today than he has ever gone in stating what he is willing to give up in order to try to achieve peace. For the first time he was explicit about settlement blocs, and the fact that there would ultimately be settlements beyond the borders of Israel. Unfortunately, Netanyahu's concessions will not be the news of the day. Instead, the news will be that he rejected President Obama's terms of reference. Instead of seizing the initiative and forcing the Palestinians to play defense, something that is very easy to do (thanks to the agreement between Fatah and Hamas), Netanyahu has once again done, what I fear is, too little too late. He reminds me a little of some of the Arab dictators who failed to read the state of their own regimes and thought small actions would suffice. Of course the situations are not totally analogous. However Netanyahu has once again taken incremental actions, as opposed to dramatic actions. Netanyahu could have said we are willing to enter negotiations whose starting point would be the 67 lines. That does not mean accepting the 67 borders as the end point, just as a jumping off point for negotiations. It also does not mean that if there were negotiations they would succeed, because, ultimately, the Palestinians are no more ready to accept our existence today than they were in 1947. Therefore, Israel would have been able to risk little by taking the diplomatic offensive.
Bibi could not get himself to take any dramatic actions. Instead, Netanyahu played the lawyer and gave an excellent defense of Israel to a very pro-Israel Congress. Of course, what works in the US Congress is not going to work at the UN. Where we go from here, I truly do not know.