Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bibi: Quit blaming Israel for all the problems in the Middle East


Netanyahu addressing AIPAC
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes it to be a miscalculation to tie the Arab Spring demonstrations throughout the Middle East to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking to the AIPAC national policy conference in Washington, Netanyahu asserted that the demonstrators on the streets of Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and other nations “aren’t thinking of Israel.”
Rather, he said, they are thinking of democracy and freedom.
“They’re yearning for hope for themselves and their children,” he said.
“It’s time to stop blaming Israel for all the region’s problems,” Netanyahu said.
That’s not to say that Israel isn’t interested in a peace with the Palestinians – something he says is “of vital interest for us.” But it is not, he said, a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.
“It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car,” Netanyahu said.
“It will not prevent churches from being bombed. It will not keep journalists out of jail.”
Only democracy, the prime minister asserted, will change things on the ground in the region. And by democracy, Netanyahu said, he doesn’t just mean elections.
“I mean freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly.” As well, he says, of the rights of women and minorities.
The people of Israel want, Netanyahu said, the people of the Middle East to have what Americans have and what they have in Israel; democracy.
“It’s time to recognize this basic truth,” he said.
“Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.”
And he blamed the Palestinians for the lack of peace with Israel.
“This conflict has lasted a century because of the refusal of the Palestinians to end it,” Netanyahu charged.
“They refuse to accept the Jewish state,” what the conflict, he said, has always been about.
The conflict, he argued can be resolved. But, he added, that can only happen if the Palestinians are “prepared to make peace with the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu said that on Tuesday, during his rare speech to a joint session of Congress, he will describe what a peace between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state would look like. That peace, he said, “must leave Israel with security.”
Which is why, he said, “Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.”
Gary Baumgarten is editor of The Jewish Reporter.

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