May 29th, 2011
01:59 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Netanyahu doesn't want a deal

We've just gone through an arcane debate about whether Barack Obama said anything new when he called for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement based on 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps. In fact, that has been the working assumption of all negotiating parties - America, Israel and the Palestinian Authority - for over 20 years. It is what the Camp David talks of 2000 were based on; it's what former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's talks with the Palestinians was based on.

The newsworthy and real shift in U.S. policy was President Obama publicly condemning the Palestinian strategy to seek recognition as a state from the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Instead of thanking Obama for this, Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to stage, in the words of the former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas, "Nothing less than a bizarre tirade at the White House on Friday, educating the president about the plight and the pogroms of Jews throughout history."

So why did Netanyahu do this? Does it help Israel's security or strengthen it otherwise to stoke tensions with its strongest ally and largest benefactor, Washington? Does such behavior further the resolution of Israel's problems?

No, but it helps Netanyahu stir up support at home and maintain his fragile coalition.

The real revelation, which has been picked up by many in the Israeli press, is that it shows finally that Netanyahu simply doesn't want a deal. He always has a new objection, a new problem, a new delaying tactic because, at core, he has never believed that the Palestinians should have a state.

Here is the young Bibi, 33 years ago, at a forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

"I think the United States should oppose the creation of a Palestinian state for several reasons, the first one being that it is unjust to demand the creation of a 22nd Arab state and a second Palestinian state at the expense of the only Jewish state. There is no right to establish the second one on my doorstep, which will threaten my existence. There is no right whatsoever."

Prime Minister Netanyahu's references to the indefensible borders of 1967 last week also reveal him to be mired in a world that has really gone away. The chief threat to Israel today is not from a Palestinian army. Israel has the region's strongest economy and military by far, complete with an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The chief threats to Israel are from new technologies - rockets and biological weapons - and from demography. Its physical existence is less in doubt than its democratic existence as it continues to rule millions of Palestinians who are entitled to neither a vote nor a country.

Ironically, the young Bibi understood that it was impossible to keep the Palestinians in such serf-like conditions forever. Listen to him advocating that Palestinians should be given citizenship, either in Jordan or in Israel:

"In the event that this negotiation process will continue, I am sure that what we're talking about is, in fact, eventual citizenship of some kind, either Jordanian or Israeli or in any other arrangement."

If the Palestinians were smart, they'd take Prime Minister Netanyahu up on that offer of citizenship in Israel, and then Bibi would wish he had been for a two-state solution all along.


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    Fareed Zakaria is factually wrong in this article. Qatar and Kuwait have the strongest economies in the Middle East even though they are oil rich dictatorships. Israel has the most diversified economy and is the only Middle Eastern country that is industrialized and a member of the OECD. Israel also has a bigger economy overall than Qatar and Kuwait because those countries have smaller populations. But in terms of GDP per person Qatar is much higher than Israel (even though its economy is heavily dependent on oil and doesn't have the advanced science and technology that Israel possesses).

    Therefore it is factually incorrect for Zakaria to say that Israel has the "strongest economy" in the region "by far". He should correct the inaccuracy or issue a clarification.

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