Friday, May 20, 2011

Yossi Verter/ Washington said No to Netanyahu's most generous offer

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the Knesset this week was a dry run, ahead of the real thing in the Oval Office today and on Capitol Hill Tuesday, it could be called a spectacular success. The coalition is more stable than ever. Here and there grumbling was heard from the usual suspects, including Benny Begin, Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon. But no one took it seriously.

When Netanyahu said "settlement blocs," did he mean what every child understands, or as he said on Wednesday to the Likud's right-wing faction, that "there are different definitions of the word 'bloc'"? He prompted Minister Dan Meridor, from the party's left-wing faction, to call his speech "a paramount strategic statement," and induced Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, from the coalition's right, to say, "There is nothing to prevent the coalition from surviving until 2013." Meridor heard "settlement bloc," Lieberman heard "there is no partner for talks." And they are both right.

The Knesset address was the most dovish Netanyahu has ever delivered. "Settlement blocs" and "a military presence in the Jordan Rift Valley" demarcate a general map of Israel within the 1967 boundaries, with some adjustments.

Once you set aside "they are coming to destroy us," you get a Netanyahu not all that far from Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu, who has always stated that the border issue must be left to the negotiation stage, this week demarcated a border. His advisers reassured afterward that this was actually a survey of what most of the public supports, and not necessarily Netanyahu's position. That is something they won't be able to sell either to President Obama or to Congress.