Netanyahu's 'Brilliant' Peace Plan: Maximum Land with Minimum Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a peace plan so ingenious it is a wonder
that for six decades of bloodshed no one thought of it. Some people
might have missed the true brilliance of his ideas presented in a
speech at Bar Ilan University on 14 June, so we are pleased to offer
this analysis.

First, Netanyahu wants Palestinians to become committed Zionists. They
can prove this by declaring, "We recognize the right of the Jewish
people to a state of their own in this land." As he pointed out, it is
only the failure of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular to
commit themselves to the Zionist dream that has caused conflict, but
once "they say those words to our people and to their people, then a
path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples."
It is of course perfectly natural that Netanyahu would be "yearning for
that moment."

Mere heartfelt commitment to Zionism will not be enough, however. For
the Palestinians' conversion to have "practical meaning," Netanyahu
explained, "there must also be a clear understanding that the
Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel's borders."
In other words, Palestinians must agree to help Israel complete the
ethnic cleansing it began in 1947-48, by abandoning the right of
return. This is indeed logical because as Zionists, Palestinians would
share the Zionist ambition that Palestine be emptied of Palestinians to
the greatest extent possible.

Netanyahu is smart enough to recognize that even the
self-ethnic-cleansing of refugees may not be sufficient to secure
"peace": there will still remain millions of Palestinians living
inconveniently in their native land, or in the heart of what Netanyahu
insisted was the "historic homeland" of the Jews.

For these Palestinians, the peace plan involves what Netanyahu calls
"demilitarization," but what should be properly understood as
unconditional surrender followed by disarmament. Disarmament, though
necessary, cannot be immediate, however. Some recalcitrant Palestinians
may not wish to become Zionists. Therefore, the newly pledged Zionist
Palestinians would have to launch a civil war to defeat those who
foolishly insist on resisting Zionism. Or as Netanyahu put it, the
"Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza
and overcome Hamas." (In fact, this civil war has already been underway
for several years as the American and Israeli-backed Palestinian
"security forces," led by US Lt. General Keith Dayton, have escalated
their attacks on Hamas).

Once anti-Zionist Palestinians are crushed, the remaining Palestinians
-- whose number equals that of Jews in historic Palestine -- will be
able to get on with life as good Zionists, according to Netanyahu's
vision. They will not mind being squeezed into ever smaller ghettos and
enclaves in order to allow for the continued expansion of Jewish
colonies, whose inhabitants Netanyahu described as "an integral part of
our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public." And, in line
with their heartfelt Zionism, Palestinians will naturally agree that
"Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel."

These are only the Palestinian-Israeli aspects of the Netanyahu plan.
The regional elements include full, Arab endorsement of Palestinian
Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel and even Arab Gulf money
to pay for it all. Why not? If everyone becomes a Zionist then all
conflict disappears.

It would be nice if we could really dismiss Netanyahu's speech as a
joke. But it is an important indicator of a hard reality. Contrary to
some naive and optimistic hopes, Netanyahu does not represent only an
extremist fringe in Israel. Today, the Israeli Jewish public presents
(with a handful of exceptions) a united front in favor of a racist,
violent ultra-nationalism fueled by religious fanaticism. Palestinians
are viewed at best as inferiors to be tolerated until circumstances
arise in which they can be expelled, or caged and starved like the 1.5
million inmates of the Gaza prison.

Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial
are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who
constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish
Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel's ethnic
cleansing of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu's "vision" offered absolutely no advance on the 1976 Allon
Plan for annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, or Menachem
Begin's Camp David "autonomy" proposals. The goal remains the same: to
control maximum land with minimum Palestinians.

Netanyahu's speech should put to rest newly revived illusions -- fed in
particular by US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech -- that such an
Israel can be brought voluntarily to any sort of just settlement. Some
in this region who have placed all their hopes in Obama -- as they did
previously in Bush -- believe that US pressure can bring Israel to
heel. They point to Obama's strong statements calling for a complete
halt to Israeli settlement construction -- a demand Netanyahu defied in
his speech. It now remains to be seen whether Obama will follow his
tough words with actions.

Yet, even if Obama is ready to put unprecedented pressure on Israel, he
would likely have to exhaust much of his political capital just to get
Israel to agree to a settlement freeze, let alone to move on any of
dozens of other much more substantial issues.

And despite the common perception of an escalating clash between the
Obama administration and the Israeli government (which may come over
minor tactical issues), when it comes to substantive questions they
agree on much more than they disagree. Obama has already stated that
"any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's
identity as a Jewish state," and he affirmed that "Jerusalem will
remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." As for
Palestinian refugees, he has said, "The right of return [to Israel] is
something that is not an option in a literal sense."

For all the fuss about settlements, Obama has addressed only their
expansion, not their continued existence. Until the Obama
administration publicly dissociates itself from the positions of the
Clinton and Bush administrations, we must assume it agrees with them
and with Israel that the large settlement blocks encircling Jerusalem
and dividing the West Bank into ghettos would remain permanently in any
two-state solution. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu have mentioned Israel's
illegal West Bank wall suggesting that there is no controversy over
either its route or existence. And now, both agree that whatever shreds
are left can be called a "Palestinian state." No wonder the Obama
administration welcomed Netanyahu's speech as "a big step forward."

What is particularly dismaying about the position stated by Obama in
Cairo -- and since repeated constantly by his Middle East envoy George
Mitchell -- is that the United States is committed to the "legitimate
Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their
own." This formula is designed to sound meaningful, but these vague,
campaign-style buzzwords are devoid of any reference to inalienable
Palestinian rights. They were chosen by American speechwriters and
public relations experts, not by Palestinians. The Obama formula
implies that any other Palestinian aspirations are inherently

Where in international law, or UN resolutions can Palestinians find
definitions of "dignity" and "opportunity?" Such infinitely malleable
terms incorrectly reduce all of Palestinian history to a demand for
vague sentiments and a "state" instead of a struggle for liberation,
justice, equality, return and the restoration of usurped rights. It is,
after all, easy enough to conceive of a state that keeps Palestinians
forever dispossessed, dispersed, defenseless and under threat of more
expulsion and massacres by a racist, expansionist Israel.

Through history it was never leaders who defined rights, but the people
who struggled for them. It is no small achievement that for a century
Palestinians have resisted and survived Zionist efforts to destroy
their communities physically and wipe them from the pages of history.
As long as Palestinians continue to resist in every arena and by all
legitimate means, building on true international solidarity, their
rights can never be extinguished. It is from such a basis of
independent and indigenous strength, not from the elusive promises of a
great power or the favors of a usurping occupier, that justice and
peace can be achieved.

© 2023