In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians must “pass the test of peace” (Haaretz, April 22). This time, the test was over “paying terrorists.” Netanyahu argued that the Palestinian Authority and its leader must stop giving money to Palestinians in Israeli prisons and to the families of terrorists. The prime minister’s public support for a position the Israeli defense establishment opposes was meant, inter alia, to further Republican-sponsored federal legislation that would force the United States to halt financial assistance to the PA if it continues these payments.
Netanyahu’s consistent view is that the Palestinians don’t meet the threshold conditions for negotiations. Each time, he pulls a different – essential – condition out of his pocket, without which it’s impossible to launch any political moves. It’s like one of satirist Ephraim Kishon’s poker games, in which the rules change constantly.
The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state has until now served as an obstacle intended to block any attempt at political progress. It’s not inconceivable that Netanyahu, in the light of the proposals of then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — which, according to media reports, led the Palestinians to soften their objections on this issue — sought a new excuse to maintain the freeze in negotiations, especially when there are signs of a new U.S. initiative on the horizon.
In the same spirit, Netanyahu ignores the important cooperation with the PA. Just last week, during an Israeli army operation in Nablus, two Israeli undercover soldiers were detained by the Palestinian police before being returned with all their equipment, including guns, communication gear and their car. Such an act seems self-evident only in the context of security cooperation and trust between Israel and the PA.
But a rejectionist like Netanyahu will never present the positive aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations. For if he did, how could he continue to blur the differences between the PA and Hamas, or between the PA and all the other “beasts of prey” with which Israel is surrounded?
Despite the “tests” Netanyahu is continually seeking for the Palestinians, the one who has consistently failed the test of peace is Netanyahu himself. The prime minister has been running the country for eight years, during which he hasn’t done a thing to seriously promote an agreement. On the contrary, Netanyahu has done everything in his power to torpedo any kind of process that might have enabled a real dialogue with our neighbors.
Meanwhile, he has allowed right-wing extremists, especially Habayit Hayehudi party Chairman Naftali Bennett, to dominate the agenda and make the two-state solution irrelevant. Thus on the most important test of peace, the Israeli test, Netanyahu receives a failing grade.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.