Chris Mitchell

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Aftermath of Bibi's Speech


Everyone was waiting. Would Bibi Netanyahu call for a Palestinian state?

On Sunday night at Bar Ilan University he finally did. But he did so with extreme restrictions. No army. No control over their air space. No ability to make military pacts with groups like Hezbollah or nations like Iran.

Netanyahu wants a demilitarized Palestinian state. In short, he wanted no possibility of another "Hamastan" on Israel's border. Will it work? Some aren't sure.

A Knesset member told me earlier today he's concerned that once you go down the road to a Palestinian state, the conditions you want to put on it could be eroded or even eliminated.

His argument is that no state in today's world exists with those kinds of conditions. In fact, it might not be a state at all since a state implies sovereignty.

Would the nations of the world -- would the U.S. -- demand that a Palestinian state have all the accoutrements of a regular state? That's the concern some here in Israel have.

Also, would the current Palestinian leadership be able to operate under those conditions?

Natan Sharansky, the author of "The Case for Democracy," thinks not.

Sharansky works with Palestinian dissidents all the time and knows many who want to genuinely live with Israelis "in peace and security."

However, he applies a test for democracy he calls the "town square test." Can someone go to the town square and criticize the government without fear?

Sharansky applies another test to the current situation. Would a future Palestinian state accept Jews living in it? If not, then it would be racist and fail his test for statehood.

One commentator put it this way: Once the Palestinians start acting like Norwegians, they can have a state.

The Iranian threat also played a limited role in Netanyahyu's speech. He devoted just one paragraph about it, saying the greatest danger the world is facing is the "nexis between radical Islam and nuclear weapons."

One of his speechwriters told me that not talking a lot about Iran was a deliberate decision.

For the past several years, Israeli officials have been saying that Iran is not just an Israeli problem but a world problem. It seems they wanted to let the results of the Iranian elections -- Ahmadinejad's re-election and the resulting riots -- speak for themselves.

It's also important to see Netanyahyu's speech in the Iranian context. It's possible he believes by agreeing to the concept of a Palestinian state, it will give him and Israel more leeway in dealing with Iran. We will see.

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 12:10 PM



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