The National
July 18, 2010 - 12:00am

The video should be aired on the evening news throughout the world. It reveals in stunning clarity the breadth of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disdain for the peace process, the Palestinians, and even Israel’s foremost ally, the US. Aired in Israel, a video shot in 2001 depicts Mr Netanyahu declaring that he personally destroyed the Oslo Accords. He boasts that it was he who prevented the “galloping to the ‘67 lines”.

Given that these events transpired nine years ago, it would be possible that Mr Netanyahu’s views have changed; his actions reveal that they have not.

Mr Netanyahu’s speech last year at Bar Ilan University where he expressed support for a two-state solution was lauded as a great concession. He has shown no sign, however, that he is prepared to make a single concession to achieve it.

Mr Netanyahu only budges once he is sure that he has made peace impossible. In 1997, when faced with the requirement to withdraw from Hebron, Mr Netanyahu, by his own admission, only signed the agreement when he was sure that Israel would retain its other holdings in the West Bank.

He is repeating the same formula today to allow Israel to keep its settlements. When the US president Barack Obama pushed for a complete “freeze” in settlement construction, Mr Netanyahu refused the request. After weeks of pressure from the US, he allowed for a partial halt with a clear deadline. In doing so, he destroyed whatever consensus on a peace agreement that Mr Obama had managed to build in the region, and he made a mockery of the Arab Peace Initiative and its supporters.

Much has been made of the political limitations that Mr Netanyahu’s coalition places on him and that the right wing, pro-settler parties would rather leave Mr Netanyahu’s government than lose what they refer to as Judea and Samaria. That is not correct. Mr Netanyahu is not being held back by the radicals, he is one of them. The Israeli prime minister would rather the Middle East remain mired in a conflict that has destroyed the hopes of successive generations than making meaningful compromise.

Mr Netanyahu has revealed much in these few minutes of unguarded honesty. The Palestinian Authority’s assertion that peace negotiations with Mr Netanyahu would be “pointless” now rings more true. However, the region and the US must push all the harder for a peace agreement. It matters little now if Mr Netanyahu is pushed too hard and his government collapses. While he may indeed lose his mandate, that would be no great blow to peace. Meanwhile, if Mr Netanyahu is not pushed hard enough, he will purposefully seek to derail the peace process.

As he said in the video, Mr Netanyahu is the sort of man who believes that “it would be better to give two per cent than to give 100 per cent”. He is, by his own admission, not willing to pay the price for peace. He must be made to.


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