Sunday, May 15, 2011

How should Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to the US Congress?

Note: at the end of this Post, I respond to a reader comment. Both Comment and Response have been adjusted for public posting.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before the US Congress next week.
There is speculation in Israel about concessions he might offer. There is concern about what he might give away.
I suggest he make no concessions.  Instead-- because US President Obama has stated that the Arab street wants democracy-- Mr Netanyahu should propose, a  “democracy concord ”—so that Jew and Arab together can transform the Middle East.
The concord agreements should begin with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Mr Netanyahu should open with an overarching goal:  to reach an agreement that creates a win-win for both sides.
America understands ‘win-win’.
He should declare that his proposed “democracy concord” is built on three platforms: partnership, peace, and democracy.
To begin, each side must feel it can live beside the other as a trusted partner. There are many problems they will need to solve together: water, power generation, job training,  employment.
The IMF and the World Bank have already said that Israel and the Arab must work together.
They must be partners.
To become partners, there must be peace; nothing less is acceptable. Governance is not about empowering hate; it should be about protecting each citizen’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of individual accomplishment.
Is this not mankind’s dream?
It is certainly America’s dream.
Finally, there must be democracy, for democracy has the only proven track-record to support the dreams of man.
Why should Jew and Arab settle for less?
The general principles for this “democracy concord” are simple:
Every citizen should feel safe enough to walk down a street alone.
 Each citizen should have the right to vote.
 Each citizen should have total access to education.  
Each citizen should have freedom to pray as he pleases, without fear of being attacked.
Each citizen should know that his religion’s traditional and historic Holy Sites are safe.
Each citizen should feel that he has representation in the National Parliament.
After this introduction, the PM should repeat these principles as concord specifics:
1.       Each side must specify how Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA will have:
-voting rights
-representation in their national Congress
-access to full medical care
-access to education
-safe access to Holy Sites

        2.   Each side must document that:
-each accepts the other’s right to exist
-each accepts the other’s right to peaceful borders
-each accepts the other’s right to religion and religious identification
-each removes all expression of hate from public documents, media and religion
        3.   Each must validate how Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA can create political parties for National Representation.
        4.    Each must show how it will offer job training to Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA.
          5.  Each must present how it will include the narrative of the other side in their own educational curriculum.
           6.  Each must present its plan to protect the human rights of Arabs in Israel, and to protect human rights of Jews in the PA.
            7.  Each must show how it will give Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA a role to play in each judicial system.
 The requirements for democracy are clear and simple.
When implemented, this “democracy concord” will create a democracy model for the entire Region.
The key to success, our Prime Minister should suggest, is not simply announcing the existence of the “concord”, but monitoring its progress. To that end, Mr Netanyahu should tell America that he promises to report, in regular, monthly news conferences, how each side progresses on each of the concord’s elements.
In this peace-making process, he should warn, the world must see who validates and who resists—who seeks peace and who refuses, who accepts democracy and who rejects it.
Our Prime Minister should make it clear that Israel is committed to this process. Israel knows how to bring prosperity and individual liberty to its citizens, and she wants to offer her skills to her neighbors—but only when there is peace, partnership and democracy.
The ‘ball’ is in the PA’s court. Will they call for democracy—or will they call for war?
Israel calls for peace. Israel is not perfect. She knows that.  But she wants a partnership of peace with her neighbors, and she is ready to commit to this “concord”.
The Prime Minister can then conclude with a Biblical reference: let us now put down our swords and our hate. Let us now work together, as neighbors of good will, to create both peace and prosperity for our two peoples.
Personally, I believe that Mr Netanyahu can make this speech.
I believe that America would respond to it.
For Mr Netanyahu visiting America, that’s what counts.

COMMENT: Hamas and Fatah are back together, and  the Hamas Charter essentially nullifies Israel.
In addition, Haniyeh of Hamas has just renewed his call for Israel's end: we're all back to square one.

My reply:

First, you are right. With the Hamas-Fatah alliance, we would appear to be, as you suggest, back to square one. But I would suggest to you that there is also here a potential 'no'—we might not be back to the same old ‘square one’.
Why? Because right now the international geopolitical table has tilted away from Israel; at this stage in the Arab-Israel conflict, we are definitely on the defensive. Worse, we seem to be passive, without 'fight', without a leg to stand on.
Everyone tells us what we must do: give the Arab what he wants, and do it now. In response, we stand mute, seemingly embarrassed by some kind of guilt or inability to act. As the nations of the world incessantly demand that we surrender land, our apparent silence seems to prove to them that they are right and we are wrong. Very, very wrong.
 This "concord" concept, I think, has the potential to re-tilt the table because it alters the discussion of 'statehood' from 'we must give to you', to 'we will partner with democracy'.
 Remember, he who controls the definition of terms will control the debate, and he who controls the debate increases his odds of winning--and so far we have given up that control to everyone else; now, we strike back with our own definitions, and we create those definitions in terms of values America holds dear, and we do that in the House that counts--the US Congress, where those values were forged and built.
Hamas-Fatah rejection, in my opinion,  does not exactly drive us back to square one: Instead, I think that their rejection can, if we set this up properly, drive us to a new 'square one', a moral high ground we have recently ceded to our enemies:  YOU reject democracy; YOU reject becoming a trusted partner; YOU refuse 'life, liberty and the pursuit of individual accomplishment'; YOU reject religious freedom; YOU reject human rights; and YOU, by rejecting this call to peace and partnership, clearly and obviously reject peace.
Their rejection can become part of our battle cry: WE choose democracy; WE choose a commitment to citizen safety; WE choose peace. YOU reject, YOU disdain, YOU refuse, YOU are the ones who spit at America's call for democracy and YOU are the ones who spit in the face your brothers in Tunisia and Lybia, etc, who have called for democracy.
Does it matter here the Arab street's call for democracy--or Obama's interpretation of that call as the call for democracy--is probably not authentic or viable?
Because, at least for some observers, the conflict over statehood is part of a greater war against Israel—and  truth has already become a casualty.
Indeed, even if this idea of ‘war’ is not correct, truth has still become a casualty. Look at untruths we have seen from our ‘peace partners’ in just the last six or seven months: the Temple Mount never was Jewish; Rachel’s Tomb is a mosque; the Jew’s  ‘occupation’  of Palestine includes Haifa.
The truth is not important any more. What counts is perception.
In America, there is a saying: Perception is Reality.
The perception created by our enemies is that we are the bad guys; and right now, everyone seems to say that is the truth.
The perception we want to create is the one that says, 'You are the bad guys, not us'.
If you believe that, with the Hamas-Fatah alliance, we go back to square one, then I would suggest yes—we could go back to the original square one--1948-- which actually recognized who were the good guys, who not.
If we create a new 'square one' with this moral high ground-- well then, that is a better spot to be in vs where we are right now.
I think that the idea of a new 'square one' is possible.  I think we can change ' back to square one' to ‘our square'.
 Is that really possible?
 I do not know. But I do know this: right now, we are boxed in, with no place to go and very little to say in our own defense. This type of speech, however, this type of approach, could help us create--I would suggest-- a moral high ground we can believe in and fight for.
Will anyone else believe that?
 I am not concerned about ‘anyone else’. This moral high ground is not for them; it's for us, to give us something to fight for, something to believe in besides, 'we have no other choice right now'.
 I think a speech like this gives us a choice--we can define for ourselves and for the US Congress that the American concepts of peace, trust and freedom still live; more important, it says that Israel is willing to commit to these concepts (in fact, if you look at the list in the ‘speech’, Israel already lives by those requirements); just as Obama wants to do for the Middle East, we in Israel do today, as proof to our neighbors that democracy, peace and security are possible. Yes, Netanyahu can say, we commit to these values.
 Now we challenge the Arabs: what do you commit to?
Suddenly, they are the ones on the defensive, because we know—as you suggest--how they will respond. Well, let them respond that way--because then we can pound them as the cause of no peace, no trust, no safety, no partnership, and no democracy.
A speech like this would, I think, be fighting words, for sure; but right now, Israel has no 'fight' at all. I think right now we have nothing except, 'we surrender'.
So with one speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu might change everything.
Redefining the terms of our participation in the discussion of a new state could be the game-changer for us. It may not change the bid for statehood, but it could change perceptions.
 Remember: perception is reality.
That’s what makes America so great.
We might be wise to speak ’Americanese’ to America.

1 comment:

  1. Well, since the Hamas Charter nullifies Israel and Haniiyeh just called for Israel's end, you're back to square One.