Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What to Expect from Bibi's Speech to Congress

Word is out that Israeli PM Netanyahu will be addressing Congress on 24 May, at which time he's expected to offer a "bold" plan of major "concessions" to produce a peace deal with the Palestinians - and, he hopes, head off what Ehud Barak has referred to as the diplomatic "tsunami" about to swamp Israel when the UN General Assembly convenes in September to consider a declaration of Palestinian statehood.

We may have just received - courtesy of a speech made by Mr. Barak during a reception at IDF headquarters - a preview of what Bibi will offer:

  •     A permanent border set according to security and demography concerns in a manner in which settlement blocs and neighborhoods in Jerusalem remain under Israeli sovereignty, and land exchanges that will leave in the hands of the Palestinians territory similar to that which was their land before '67,
  •     "Security arrangements which include permanent (military) presence along the Jordan River and guarantee that the demilitarized Palestinian state does not become another Gaza or Lebanon,
  •     "Settlement of refugees in the Palestinian state,
  •     "Agreed-upon arrangements in the holy area of Jerusalem,
  •     "And most importantly, an end to the conflict and the mutual demands, in addition to recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and the Palestinian state as the nation state of the Arab Palestinians."
  • Barak added that these conditions have been Israel's demands since the year 2000. He also called on the world to accept the Mideast Quartet's conditions and "disassemble the infrastructure of terror in Gaza", and to recognize Israel as well as its arrangements with the Palestinian Authority.
Personally, I see lots of wiggle room here, in some very unspecific language - and it's also difficult to believe that the Palestinian leadership is going to agree to any permanent Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, which would comprise the eastern border of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.  

UPDATE: Now it's been announced that President Obama will be delivering his own speech to lay out a path forward in the Middle East.  According to Reuters, that speech will be made before Obama's 22 May departure to the Middle East - ergo, before Bibi's speech to Congress.
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