Netanyahu Sort-Of Relents
Looks like Eli Lake was right:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed an independent Palestinian state beside Israel for the first time on Sunday, dramatically reversing himself in the face of U.S. pressure but attaching conditions the Palestinians swiftly rejected.
A week after President Barack Obama's address to the Muslim world, Netanyahu said the Palestinian state would have to be unarmed and recognize Israel as the Jewish state — a condition amounting to Palestinian refugees giving up the goal of returning to Israel.
Netanyahu, in an address seen as his reponse to Obama, refused to heed the U.S. call for an immediate freeze of construction on lands Palestinians claim for their future state. He also said the holy city of Jerusalem must remain under Israeli sovereignty.
Senior Palestinian officials Saeb Erekat said the plan "closed the door" to negotiations [...]
Erekat said Netanyahu's plan was unacceptable since it effectively imposes a solution on the core issues of the conflict.
"Netanyahu's speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations," he said. "We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain."
Is this a step forward for Netanyahu? Yes. Does it move the ball forward? Apparently not, as the last paragraph makes clear.
Just the fact that Netanyahu had to give a speech like this to combat the Obama speech in Cairo moves the ball forward in some sense, pushing the discussion toward the peace process. But each side is trying to outflank the other on who is more inclined toward peace and what must remain in and out of a deal that the going will be extremely slow. I would say it's better that he did this than nothing at all. But we're still light years away from a solution, and more engagement is needed from the Administration.