Hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state for the first time, in a speech on Sunday that Arab analysts said "torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region".
The United States and the European Union have offered a cautious welcome to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s propositions for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state.
Arab leaders and analysts, however, said Netanyahu’s propositions were unacceptable, especially in the light of his refusal to back down on the issues of settlements, the insistance that Jerusalem be the unified capital of the Jewish state and that Palestinians must recognise the Jewish character of Israel, a condition Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has long rejected.
The Palestinians recognised Israel as a state in 1993 as part of the Oslo accords but have refused to recognise it as "Jewish" because doing so would effectively mean giving up the right of return for Palestinian refugees, a key Palestinian demand since Israel was created in 1948.
In his speech on Sunday from the city of Ramat Gan, Netanyahu yielded somewhat to Obama's call for a two-state solution by proposing a demilitarised Palestinian state.
The hawkish Israeli leader also said the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a condition Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has long rejected.
Spokesman for Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Netanyahu's rhetoric "torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region”.
"It hobbles all efforts to save the peace process, in a clear defiance of the US administration," he said.
The Islamist Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Strip condemned it as reflecting a "racist, extremist" ideology that denied Palestinian rights.
Nassif Hitti, representing the Arab League in France, lamented the Israeli PM’s refusal to back down on settlements.
“Netanyahu has confirmed all our worst suspicions,” Hitti told FRANCE 24. “He did not endorse the concept of a Palestinian state. He endorsed a concept that does not exist under international law.
“The state he proposed would have very little sovereignty - it would not have any control over its borders, airspace or international relations. Israel would have control of everything."
Washington was initially upbeat about the speech, calling it “an important step forward” in the peace process.
US President Barack Obama "believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel's security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for a viable state, and he welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu's endorsement of that goal," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, an analyst at the Brookings Institute, told AFP the speech was as much aimed at Netanyahu's domestic audience as at the Palestinians, Arabs, and the United States.
However, there are implications for the new administration.
Wittes said Netanyahu "went a step or two in the direction the Obama administration wanted him to go," without making substantive progress.
The Obama administration has, for exmple, been trying hard to recruit broader Arab support for establishing normal ties with Israel in exchange for a settlement freeze.
With Netanyahu's comments on settlements, she said, "it looks like we're stuck at square one."
Samy Bouchner, editor of Israeli business news website israelbusinessclass.net, said he was surprised Obama had said Netanyahu's call for a Palestinian state was "an important step forward".
"This is a storm in a teacup," Bouchner told FRANCE 24. "Netanyahu used the magic words 'Palestinian state' but immediately emptied the words of any substance by laying down such impossible conditions."
Date created : 2009-06-15