Bibi’s Speech

Eli Lake reports for The Washington Times that Bibi Netanyahu is prepared to make major concessions toward the Palestinians. This turns out to mean that he’s willing to accept, in principle, that someday there should be a Palestinian state. But only after all kinds of conditions are met and so on and so forth. Spencer Ackerman aptly characterizes this as Bibi stepping boldly into the cutting edge thinking circa 1993.

That said, while cynicism is appropriate, it shouldn’t cloud all. Politics is a pretty cynical business, and there’s always been a lot of cynicism in Netanyahu’s hard-line approach. A cynical and nominal embrace of a two-state solution still means that there’s no longer any meaningful Israeli political space to the right of the common sense and appropriate view that the only way for Israel to enjoy long-term security is by peacefully coexisting with an independent Palestine. What will follow from that in practice is, as of yet, hard to see. But a great deal follows from that logically. In particular, on the controversy du jour regarding settlements, it’s crystal clear as a matter of logic that if you can’t have a settlement freeze then you also can’t ever have a Palestinian state. Conversely, if you believe there needs to be a Palestinian state, then no matter what you think about when or how that should happen, you’re ineluctably drawn to the conclusion that the settlement project needs to be halted. Will Netanyahu embrace those conclusions? Well, I have my doubts. But the terms of the debate are nonetheless changed by him shifting his position, however much the “shift” doesn’t amount to anything beyond Israel formally accepting Israel’s responsibility for Israel’s previous diplomatic commitments.