Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech Tuesday before America’s Congress that has been praised in both the U.S. and Israel. In his remarks, he discussed at length his position on the peace process between his country and the Palestinian people, which have warred over land since the end of the 19th century.
Netanyahu spoke of making “generous offers” to the Palestinians as well as “painful concessions” as part of a peace process. Yet, he strongly rejected the idea recently presented by President Barack Obama that such a process should include borders based on those established in 1967. Netanyahu called this proposal “indefensible,” as it would leave Israel vulnerable to attacks.
The U.S. has a vital interest in the preservation and safety of the Israeli state. But as Israel’s most important ally, America should have some influence in the peace process.
According to a 2010 U.S. Congressional report titled “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid, with the country receiving nearly $3 billion in annual grants since 1985. Obama’s suggestions should be rightfully considered by the Israeli government, as the longer those two nations remain split on the subject, the more costly it will be to the U.S.
Only three years ago, in 2008, such a border agreement was proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Many other proposals have utilized these lines as well.
Netanyahu professes a desire to see a Palestinian state arise as part of a two-state solution, according to the New York Times, but as the political leader of Israel he must have known that his remarks would push the Palestinians away from the bargaining table.
Ben Caspit, a commentator at Maariv, an Israeli newspaper, praised Netanyahu’s congressional speech as a “sweeping personal victory,” but recognized that it would decrease chances for peace. He said of the speech, “Those who are scared of peace yesterday got their wish. Those who are scared of war will be a lot more scared today.”
Peace between Israel and Palestine is vital. Israel has a right to protect and defend its citizens and it’s clear that there are many Palestinians who are set on attacking Israel. There are many more, though, who are peaceful. There is no justification for subjugating an entire population. The idea that Israel, the only power in the region armed with nuclear weapons, would be in danger under Obama’s proposed boarders is foolish.
It is necessary for the Israelis to make truly reasonable concessions in order to promote peace. If they do not, they are subjecting themselves to many more years of conflict. It may be ultimately up to America to force Israel’s hand.