Akiva Eldar
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 13, 2011 - 12:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu really is no man's fool. Why should he miss a rare opportunity to remind the people of Israel that the world is against us and that we have to "join hands" in the struggle against delegitimization?

When the uncle in America promises to use his veto power at the UN Security Council, Netanyahu may very well joke that the "automatic anti-Israel majority at the UN" can also vote that the world is flat. The most important thing is that Israel has a guaranteed majority in the U.S. Congress. It's a shame that all "UN boulevards" across Israel were renamed "Zionism boulevards" back in 1975, in response to a UN resolution that described Zionism as racism. Never fear, though: Netanyahu will find some suitable retaliatory measure to straighten up Jewish heads in the face of Israel's oppressors.

If the Palestinians didn't go to the UN, Netanyahu would need to invent this maneuver himself. The sterile attempt to internationalize the conflict rescues the right-wing government from its crash course on the path of negotiating over the partitioning of the West Bank and Jerusalem. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, whatever price Israel would pay (in foreign coins, too ) for yet another toothless UN resolution that would run against the position of the United States and will most probably lack the support of key European states, would still be many times lower than the price of a ticket into the political trap of negotiating on the basis of principles presented by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Accepting Obama's formula of conducting the talks on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, with agreed land swaps, is no mean feat. Netanyahu's ideological alma mater and the political camp in which he dwells today hold that the lands of the West Bank (or, in their terms, Judea and Samaria, ) are not "occupied territories." For them, they are "disputed territories," and therefore any Israeli claim of sovereignty over these areas is every bit as legitimate as a similar claim by Palestinians.

As far as they're concerned, the Old City and the Arab villages annexed to Jerusalem are not negotiable, as they are "an inseparable part of Israel." Entering negotiations based on the 1967 borders will soon uncover the fact that the myth of "defensible borders" conceals a real-estate craving. It will quickly become apparent that Netanyahu's settlement blocs are many times bigger than the lands on the Israeli side of the Green Line that he is willing to hand over to the Palestinians.

And we haven't yet said anything about the eastern ridge and about the demand that the Israel Defense Forces will keep its troops in the Jordan Valley for decades to come.

Considering the enormous gaps between the parties, the United States, as main bridesmaid of the move, will need to suggest a compromise. On Obama's desk lies the outline charted by former president Bill Clinton in 2000 - 94-96 percent of the West Bank will become Palestine, in addition to 1-3 percent ratio land swaps, including the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and sovereignity over the Temple Mount (except the Western Wall ).

Even if Obama could squeeze a generous discount out of the Palestinians, Netanyahu would find it easier to convert to Islam than to sign any such agreement - even if the cost is a break with the United States and a session at Massada.

Fortunately for Netanyahu, the Palestinians are yet again obligingly delaying the moment of truth (or lie ). Steven Simon, the new Middle East advisor at the White House, said this weekend that top Palestinian advisor Saeb Erekat told him that the Palestinians would give up on the UN move if Israel accepted the Obama principles. In other words, the Palestinians are handing Netanyahu the power of veto over the negotiations he's avoiding like the plague.

When I interviewed Erekat on the 15th anniversary of the Madrid Conference of 1991, he told me that the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership had joined the move because it didn't believe for a second that then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir actually intended to negotiate the future of the territories.

Yasser Arafat skipped over all the obstacles piled up by Shamir, including the integration of the Palestinian delegates into the Jordanian delegation. "He didn't understand what we did understand - that things will evolve naturally and that those trying to stop the move will disappear," Erekat told me, before summing up: "I know Israelis and I know most of them are interested in peace and that Shamir will lose his seat."

So why are Erekat and his colleagues so interested in keeping Shamir's latter-day twin in power?


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