Little in Netanyahu speech to revive talks: analysts

WASHINGTON, Gavin Rabinowitz- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received 31 standing ovations from the US Congress, and yet he may have failed in his primary goal -- averting a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood.
Netanyahu went to Congress promising to lay out his vision for peace with the Palestinians amid pressure from the international community for a far-reaching Israel initiative that could resurrect the dormant peace process.

Little in Netanyahu speech to revive talks: analysts
And while he offered concessions, some of them even significant for his hardline base, analysts said they were unlikely to satisfy the international community, let alone the Palestinians.
"He made peace with Congress (but) there's no formula there for peace with the Palestinians," veteran analyst Yossi Alpher told AFP.
There was "nothing which constitutes a basis for renewed negotiations," said Alpher, a former head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
"There is no peace process, there's no prospect of a peace process and we'd better start focusing on September."
September is when the Palestinians plan to seek United Nations recognition for their independent state within the territorial lines which existed before the 1967 Six Day War when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinian strategy has been sharply criticized by Israel, and Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected any idea of Israel withdrawing to the 1967 lines, which he has described as "indefensible."
Shaul Mofaz, an opposition lawmaker who heads Israel's powerful parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Netanyahu's Congressional address did nothing to head off the Palestinian campaign, which is expected to reach the UN General Assembly when it convenes in September.
"He didn't present any proposal for September," Mofaz told Israel's Channel 10 television. "We are headed straight for confrontation."
But a senior Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu said the target of the speech had not been the Palestinians, but rather ensuring that the US and European powers would not support the UN bid.
"Hopefully this will lead to a stronger US position and also to other important countries opposing it," he said, noting that Israel believed the Palestinians nevertheless had an automatic majority at the UN.
If the US was his target then the speech was a success, analysts said.
"I never heard him more effective. He pushed every button, pulled every lever, every trope," Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East analyst and former advisor to US administrations, told AFP.
The speech went over so well "because people in that room believed it," he said.
Still, it may not have gone far enough for US President Barack Obama who last week gave public voice to the long-held view of the US and international communities that a Palestinian state should be created based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War with some agreed territorial swaps.
Obama, who is traveling in Europe, was not in the audience that gave Netanyahu thunderous support.
During his speech, Netanyahu demanded the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, that they stop seeking the right of return for Palestinian refugees and give up the idea of ever having Arab east Jerusalem as capital of their promised state.
But, he assured them that Israel would be "generous" regarding the borders of their future state, without going into detail.
Ari Shavit, a correspondent with the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, described the address to CNN as "somewhat stingy" but said he saw some hope in Netanyahu's remarks on the borders.
"In a sense, (he) left room for negotiating with the American administration, saying 'no' to the borders of 1967 but 'possibly' to a Palestinian state that is as big as the size of 1967," he said.
"He was not explicit, but he did not close the door on it."
But ruling out any re-division of Jerusalem was likely to kill prospects of renewed peace talks, he said.
"The way he related to Jerusalem will make it very difficult for Palestinians to negotiate with Israel in the coming months and years," he told the network.

Wednesday, May 25th 2011
Gavin Rabinowitz

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