This links to the statement by Meretz USA’s president, Lawrence I. Lerner, and our board chair, Theodore Bikel, entitled “Netanyahu’s Speech Was a Wasted Opportunity.”
The Irish Times reported that Haim Oron, chairman of the Meretz party, described the prime minister’s widely reported speech at Bar Ilan University as “too little, too late.” Another Meretz parliamentarian, Ilan Gilon, is quoted as stating: “So much preparation for nothing. The prime minister proved again that he is the number one peace refusenik. Bibi chose to serve the needs of the settlers and the extreme–right rather than those of Israel.”
I am also disappointed. Although it was a small step forward for a Likud leader, Netanyahu’s tone was more belligerent than conciliatory. And he laid down conditions that are very problematic for the Palestinians. Insisting upon an undivided Jerusalem is a complete non-starter. History suggests that the hope for compromise lies in a trade-off between a new arrangement in Jerusalem (a third of its residents are non-Israeli Arabs) and no unrestricted right of return to Israel.
Another problem is that thickening existing settlements through “natural growth” is an ongoing irritation; Palestinians understandably feel that their homeland is being gobbled up. Settlements need to be negotiated along with borders, refugees and Jerusalem. Creating “facts on the ground” undermines negotiations. (Click here for a more eloquent evaluation by the renowned writer, David Grossman, who is a Meretz supporter.)