BY JOSH MERLO
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected following a contentious campaign. However, the return of Israel’s polarizing leader – whose relationship with President Obama might be called less than cordial – has been overshadowed by a certain foreign policy issue. Namely, Netanyahu indicated in the final days of his push to win over conservative Israeli voters that he did not support the two-state solution. Since the United States began its attempts to mediate between Israel and Palestine, the creation of a separate Palestinian state has always been one of the primary goals of negotiations. In the past, the two-state solution has been derailed by disagreements over what particular areas should be retained by Israel or granted to Palestine. With Netanyahu’s true colors now showing, a far more difficult-to-bridge chasm has been opened.
What would prompt Netanyahu’s bold rejection of what the U.S. and Israel have both traditionally held to be the best viable way to end the continuous Israeli-Palestinian conflicts? Was this nothing more than a desperate gambit to retain a position of power by an unpopular official, or was some other factor at play? Was this, perhaps, Netanyahu’s manner of informing President Obama that Obama’s cold shoulder to Israel (especially in recent months) could have complicated the role of the U.S. as impartial mediator? Or was this a nothing more than a retributive act for U.S. actions concerning Iran’s nuclear program? Either way, the question that must be considered more carefully is this: what are the implications for peace?
Netanyahu’s statement was most likely made in an attempt to reassure Israeli hard-liners, protest America’s less-than-supportive attitude towards Israel and give Israel a bargaining chip in future U.S. dealings with Iran (along the lines of “No two-state solution without far tougher measures to prevent a nuclear Iran.”) This being said, the reality that Netanyahu may have irreparably damaged peace talks cannot be ignored. Whatever his motives, is Palestine going to easily dismiss the fact that the leader of its arch-rival has publically ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state by peaceful means? Netanyahu’s words may trigger a new spree of violence in an area that desperately needs its fragile armistice to survive. To call Netanyahu’s words “criminally-irresponsible” would not be a stretch.