Conference Call Part 2: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

17Jun09

Hadassah participated in three conference calls on Monday that discussed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Sunday evening speech.

Conference of Presidents call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer (Director of Communications and Planning for the Prime Minister)

Ron Dermer opened the call by giving an overview of Sunday’s speech, pointing out its importance in uniting the country around a vision of peace and security. Dermer added that the Prime Minister talked about the essence of the conflict. He wants to make sure that the root causes of the conflict are addressed and as such, set out two core principles — a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Only when Palestinians acknoweldge that Israel is a Jewish state can all other issues can be resolved. Dermer emphasized that there should be two states for two people. However, PM Netanyahu did not say that this was a precondition for negotiations — just a precondition to close the deal.

It is also essential that a Palestinian state be demilitarized. Disengaging from Gaza has been a very difficult experience. If the West Bank had missiles, imagine all of the short range rockets that could make life miserable everywhere in Israel. PM Netanyahu has no intention of governing the Palestinians; they can have a flag and an anthem. However, he wants to make sure that there are certain restrictions on Palestinian’s sovereign power, i.e., no alliances with Iran, no full control over borders and airspace which could allow in smuggled weapons.

Palestinians need to show that they can enforce law and order. PM Netanyahu called on our allies to make sure that Israel has assurances that a Palestinian state would not endanger the state of Israel. Specifically, he’s looking for international agreements that the sovereign powers of the Palestinian state would be restricted. This would ensure that if the Palestinians did violate the agreement by acquiring military power, Israel would have the right to act. It’s not that Israel would rely on international troops, like in Lebanon; Israel would retain the right to enforce its own security.

PM Netanyahu did not go into detail on the Iran issue because the focus of the speech was his vision for peace. Iran will be a key topic when the PM goes to Europe next week. The Iranian regime continues to support terrorism, pursue nuclear weapons and challenge the existence of the state of Israel.

As to reforming Palestinian education so that Palestinians no longer teach hatred towards Israel, PM Netanyahu has established an incitement monitoring committee and President Obama mentioned it as a pre-condition to the Palestinians. Palestinians continuously say that they don’t have the power to stop the incitement. But when it comes to incitement, 100% effort equals 100% results — the Palestinians have total control over press and textbooks, so they could stop this overnight.

The issue of natural growth in the settlements has recently become a flash point. PM Netanyahu said three things: Israel won’t build new settlements and will not expropriate new land, but that until we have an agreement, a community needs to be able to carry on with normal life. He may be fine with the substantive position that there will be no expansion in the borders of a settlement, so long as building can still take place within the current borders of the settlement.

At this point, Prime Minister Netanyahu joined the call. He told us that his purpose in giving the speech was to unite the people. The speech reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis, the world Jewish community and friends of Israel. He added, if Israel is going to recognize a Palestinian state, then the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Although Israel has non-Jews living in the country with equal rights, it is still the national state of the Jews. Israel is prepared to have a peaceful state next to it, but given what Israel has experienced, the state has to be demilitarized — that seems obvious, but as Meacham Begin once said, “sometimes the obvious has to be stated explicitly.” Israel and the U.S. are now discussing settlements, but Israel is very appreciative of President Obama’s recognition in Cairo of the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel. Israel has now called for the immediate start of negotiations — there are no preconditions for beginning negotiations. We need to unlock the economic potential of the Palestinians — our friends could easily take a small economy like the Palestinians and kick it up. As for the Iranian election, PM Netanyahu said that’s the picture of Iranian democracy at work. He continued, saying that you can see from the aftermath what Iran is all about; the election is another symptom of the problem — the way the regime oppresses its people.

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