By Daniel Chejfec
Bibi Netanyahu delivered a long expected speech at the Begin-Sadat Center for Peace at Bar Ilan University. His speech was widely expected to be a response to Obama's speech in Cairo, especially on the issue of Iran. In a way it was, and in a way it was not.
If anything, the content of the speech reflects the widening of the difference in perceptions between Israel and the US. Obama dedicated about 5-6 % of his speech to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obviously, Netanyahu gave 90% of his speech to the topic. He didn't say anything new or unexpected, but he chose to respond to specific issues mentioned by Obama. Obama mentioned that the conflict was 60 year old, ignoring the history of violence before the declaration of Independence. Without openly correcting him, Netanyahu set the record straight mentioning the clashes since the 1920s; Obama claimed that Israel's existence was rooted in the tragedy of the Holocaust, Netanyahu again set the record straight; finally, Obama mentioned that maybe in the future all religions would be able to pray in Peace in Jerusalem, denying the record of religious freedoms under the Israeli administration. Netanyahu again set the record straight. But Netanyahu also, without saying it so many words, accepted the need for a Palestinian State. Truth, he did not say it openly, but he did mention two people sharing the land with their own institutions, their own flags, their own anthems and their own governments. If this is not endorsing the two state solution I don't know what it is. He also reassured the audience that as Prime Minister of Israel he sees his role as defending the State of Israel as the sovereign Nation of the Jewish People and that that is his top priority. I could go on and tell you more word by word what he said, but you might be better off reading his speech directly at http://www.israeled.org What he did not say was also significant - no details on measures regarding the economic crisis, no mention of Likkud or Jabotinsky. Netanyahu was first Prime Minister 15 years ago in a very different world- the world before 9/11; in his speech he proved that he changed. Is that good? Is that bad? I don't know, but I do know that he changed, became less ideologically driven and more pragmatic. His recurrent insistence on the Jewish character of Israel might be connected to the resurfacing of the Arab Peace Plan championed by Saudi Arabia that calls for the repatriation of Palestinians to their 1948 homes, a red line Israel will not cross. Anyway, read the speech and add your comments...I'm looking forward to reading them!