Orly Azoulay
Ynetnews (Opinion)
May 26, 2011 - 12:00am

He did not say it provocatively or crudely. It was a superb speech, with all the shticks that the Americans like: He joked in American, he mentioned his killed brother, and he recounted how he himself almost died near the Suez Canal during the war. Yet he said “no!”

At the end of the day, Netanyahu left the world with nothing they could hold on to and with a big “no” to Obama, to Europe and to everyone. He gave them nothing to cling to or to work with.

“On Friday we understood that we can’t make lemonade out of this lemon,” a source closely familiar with the negotiations told me. “The speech at Congress was no surprise. Netanyahu did not connect to the new spirit of our times. It was the familiar Netanyahu. A new leader did not emerge before us.”

While the prime minister elicited applause from a friendly audience at Capitol Hill, the president traveled across Europe, among other things in order to convince the European Union not to endorse recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN in September. He knows that he will not be able to secure a peace agreement anytime soon. His battle of retreat aims to divert the Palestinians from the path they have chosen and convince people that Netanyahu will not allow the bandwagon of history to pass by him without getting on it.

Obama only expected Bibi to utter six words in Congress: “I accept the president’s model, but…” – yet Netanyahu didn’t even get close. Instead, he presented his no’s coherently, one after the other.

Bitter taste
The Europeans made it clear to Obama that should Netanyahu accept the president’s outline, they will not endorse recognition of Palestinian statehood. He promised them to bring Netanyahu on board should they join forces with him. Now, Netanyahu’s refusal makes it complicated for Obama. Declaration of Palestinian statehood may be bad for Israel, but it’s also bad for America. The president cannot afford to lose Europe, seeing it taking the Palestinian side while he comes out against it.

They attempted to resolve this disagreement Friday. The president clarified the issue of the 1967 lines and promised that it would be a new border, given territorial swaps. The prime minister could have told Congress what he’s in favor of. After all, he promised to outline a future agreement. After all, he went far to convince people that his speech will be the harbinger of great news and innovation.

However, the great expectations turned into great disappointed: With verbal opulence, like a magician of words and a body language artist, he only conveyed a desire to be liked and draw applause.

Netanyahu spoke not like one who engages in negotiations, but as a politician, summed up Aaron Miller, who for 15 years served as advisor for US presidents and engaged in contacts on their behalf with Israel and the Palestinians. The president’s advisor, Ben Rhodes, responded diplomatically and laconically. He stressed that the White House welcomes Netanyahu’s commitment to the two-state vision.

Yet the White House conveyed similar sentiments following the Bar-Ilan Speech. The two-state vision is already history. This time around, they expected something new. They expected Netanyahu to give Obama ammunition in convincing Europe to say ‘no’ at the UN. Yet it didn’t happen. Netanyahu did a good job, but he mostly fooled everyone. Once the lights were turned off and the festive feeling evaporated, we were left with the same bitter taste in our mouth of yet another missed opportunity


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