Akiva Eldar
Haaretz (Opinion)
October 10, 2010 - 12:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu is not satisfied with forcing gentiles who wish to obtain Israeli citizenship to formally declare their recognition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Now he is demanding that the neighbors on the other side of the border also declare Israel to be a Jewish state (what about "democratic"? ).

They will grant recognition in perpetuity, while he will grant a temporary settlement freeze for two months. Maybe three. Judaism for sale.

And for those who think this is a condition for talks, think again. Bibi is innocently trying to rediscover the Israeli public's faith in the Palestinians, a faith that was lost following the violent events of the intifada. There once was a time when security was the famous catchword that was featured in Netanyahu's campaign commercials which vowed, "If they give [security], they'll receive."

When there are no terrorist attacks (though there are outposts ), our salesman in chief invented the gimmick that is the Jewish state. They say it sells well in the Mahane Yehuda market. Perhaps it sells better than the wares peddled by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Netanyahu told the Knesset on Monday that if the Palestinians accept his offer, he will ask the government to approve "an additional suspension of building." In contrast to the statements made by Lieberman during his meetings with European foreign ministers, Bibi is not naive. The prime minister knows that he has no reason to fear the reactions of the settlers and their patrons in the coalition.

When he demands that Abbas recognize Israel as a state of the Jewish people, he is offering assisted political suicide to the the Palestinian leader.

Netanyahu knows full well that any Palestinian leader who recognizes Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people also acknowledges that the Palestinians do not have any rightful place there. In other words, it is tantamount to an up-front concession on the right of return.

Netanyahu understands that this is an asset that is too precious and too complex for the Palestinians to just give up for cheap - namely, a temporary, partial freeze on construction in settlements (not including East Jerusalem ). In the best case scenario, they will relinquish the implementation of the right of return as part of a final status accord that will calm their nerves about the weighty issues of borders and Jerusalem.

This is what we are likely to hear from the prime minister after Abbas rejects his shady proposal: "When they refuse to make such a simple statement, the question arises - why? Do you want to flood the state of Israel with refugees so that it will be a state without a Jewish majority? Do you want to rip away parts of the Galilee and the Negev?"

These words are not the concoction of this writer's diabolical mind. Rather, this was a quote from a news conference held by Netanyahu in Sderot three weeks ago. This was a general rehearsal in preparation for the major diversionary ploy prepared by the premier in order to ease the coming crisis over the expiration of the freeze in settlement construction.

It is far more elegant to sabotage the negotiations over a Palestinian plot to throw us into the sea. This item is much more sellable to the Jewish-American market. It is hard to believe a seasoned politician like U.S. President Barack Obama will fall into such a transparent trap and make common cause with Netanyahu in his attempt to down Abbas.

And what will happen after Abbas announces (as his aides were quick to do so yesterday ) unequivocally that determining the identity of a neighboring state is not his business, but rather solely that of the neighbor? Will Israel respond by freezing the negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state? Every second-hand dealer knows that whoever raises the price of his goods too high shouldn't expect to make any hay.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017