Monday, October 7, 2013

The Nature of Peacemaking According to Netanyahu. By Haviv Rettig Gur.

Why it matters that Netanyahu doesn’t know that Iranians wear jeans. By Max Fisher. Washington Post, October 7, 2013. Also here.

Netanyahu: For peace, Palestinians must recognize Jewish homeland. By Herb Keinon. Jerusalem Post, October 6, 2013.

Netanyahu blames Mideast conflict on refusal to recognize Jewish state. The Times of Israel, October 6, 2013.

State of myopia. The Daily Star (Lebanon), October 8, 2013.

Top PLO official dubs Netanyahu “number one extremist.” By Elhanan Miller. The Times of Israel, October 8, 2013.

The nature of peacemaking according to Netanyahu. By Haviv Rettig Gur. The Times of Israel, October 7, 2013.


The point here goes to the psychology of leadership: If the enemy is viewed as implacably evil, peacemaking necessarily becomes politically ruinous. It is only when the enemy is seen as possessing some justice on their side that a leader’s efforts to accommodate that enemy become legitimate and politically palatable.
This difference in the perception of the enemy has arguably played an oversized role in recent Israeli history. During the 1990s, those Israelis who believed the Oslo peace process was addressing the Palestinians’ just demand for self-determination often saw the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as a national hero, “a warrior for peace.” Those who saw the Palestinians as an implacable, illegitimate enemy viewed Rabin as either a dangerous fool or a traitor.
Netanyahu’s demand for recognition has its roots in this Israeli experience. The Palestinians cannot bring themselves to end the conflict, Netanyahu believes, because they cannot bring themselves to compromise with an enemy they view as completely evil.
They have not yet shifted from perceiving their enemy as absolutely evil to perceiving him as possessing some justice on his side, however limited. Israel remains a categorical foe, and see Israelis as interlopers robbing another people of their national home. Even Palestinian moderates share this basic view of Israel: it is an evil, but an evil too well entrenched to remove. Israel does not have even a modicum of justice on its side, only brute force, they believe.
Thus, any Palestinian leader who seeks peace with Israel falls into the “Chamberlain trap,” finding himself undermined by the perception among his own people that he is accommodating evil rather than pursuing justice.
This analysis has become a key plank of Netanyahu’s policy toward the Palestinians, and has led to some of his most misunderstood speeches and demands. It is the reason he never fails to discuss the millennia-old Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in his speeches before a United Nations General Assembly that could care less.
The Palestinians don’t need to become Zionists, Netanyahu believes, but they need to perceive that Jewish demands, too, are rooted in justice. Only then will their domestic constituencies and political systems be capable of engaging in peacemaking.
It is a mistake to view Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan 2 speech as indicating he is withdrawing, even in tone, from the peace talks. In fact, the renewed urgency of his demand for recognition — which he believes to be critical to peacemaking — might suggest that the talks are, at long last, getting serious.

PM Netanyahu speech at Bar Ilan University, October 6, 2013. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also at Prime Minister’s Office, The Times of IsraelVideo at YouTube.