Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has now seemingly performed two U-turns on the matter of the two-state solution in the space of only a few weeks. He has changed his stance either side of his re-election, leaving confusion over what he actually believes but also providing a further understanding of the cynical way in which he uses the Middle East peace process as a political tool.
With election pressure mounting, Netanyahu changed his stance. In 2009, Netanyahu had outlined his support for a two-state solution, in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in Israel. He furthered this vision with another speech on the subject to US congress in 2011. Yet, in an interview days before the election, he stated “anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to radical Islam against the State of Israel”. Now, within days of his re-election, in an interview with NBC, Netanyahu has said, “I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution”.
The first change of heart seems to have been a ploy to win the support of right-wing voters, whilst the second is an attempt to repair Netanyahu’s faltering relationship with the US; both pragmatic political moves rather than ideological shifts. The ease with which he is willing to change his views on the idea of a Palestinian state undermines the whole concept, regardless of what he actually believes. In a peace process where trust is so important, the fickle nature of Netanyahu’s rhetoric to suit his own needs, will leave anyone still hopeful of progress both confused and frustrated. If there is no hope of a Palestinian state somewhere down the line then those looking to the peace process for a solution will increasingly look elsewhere for answers. It is this lack of hope that has driven many Palestinians to arms in the past.
So where does this leave the Middle East peace process? In truth, it has been stagnant for some time. Netanyahu’s recent comments will not disrupt any current initiatives; there is currently nothing to disrupt. His comments do seem to suggest that any likelihood of a Palestinian state being created is non-existent for the foreseeable future. It is a view backed up by Barack Obama. When speaking on prospects for a Palestinian state last week, he professed, “What we can’t do is pretend there’s a possibility for something that’s not there”. There are many who have always doubted whether Netanyahu really believed in the two-state solution and, for them, his comments will have only served to confirm this suspicion. Certainly, they confirm the view that Netanyahu’s re-election is not a positive step towards the creation of a Palestinian state.