I know it's long overdue, but I wanted to continue writing about how the Israeli media reacted to Netanyahu's foreign policy speech in Tel Aviv last month.
One aspect of the speech that Israeli media seems to be struggling to understand is the Palestinian reaction to the speech. For example, immediately after the speech, Palestinian authority officials immediately condemned it for not showing any flexibility of the issue of Palestinian refugees and on the status of Jerusalem. Similarly, Syrian media and even the president of Egypt commented that the speech did not offer real chances of peace and that Israel's request to be recognized as a Jewish state was a non-starter.
Some in Israel see the Palestinian and wider Arab response to Netanyahu's speech as proof of rejectionism on the other side. In other words, it is evidence that even in the face of offers to negotiate immediately, the Palestinians simply reject Israel no matter what and will always reject offers of peace.
Others have been more inquisitive about the reasons for the harsh response. Some have suggested that the harsh Arab reaction will ultimately backfire as they will be seen as the ones shutting the door on Netanyahu's offer. Others have suggested that the harsh reaction is either a pre-planned, knee-jerk rejection or, is a reflection of Palestinian surprise that Netanyahu did not offer all they wanted in light of the Palestinian belief that the US is on their side and that they, not Israel is in a position of power.
It seems then that Israeli analysis of the Palestinian reaction to Netanyahu's speech falls into one of two categories: 1) Palestinians really don't want peace and so they instinctively reject everything Israel offers or 2) Palestinians don't understand why Israel is not doing what Palestinians feel the US has told it to do.
There's a third option though, not really examined in the media, and that is that Palestinians are unhappy that Netanyahu will not freeze settlements and that he insists on Israel being recognized as a Jewish state. The settlement issue is long standing and really should not come as a surprise to anyone. It's a contentious issue that remains a very sore point, but can ultimately be resolved. The only really new thing Netanyahu said in his speech was that he wants Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state. The only such state in the world. As highlighted by the Egyptian president's comments, many Palestinians see this as some sort of a humiliation, that it is some sort of a shame that they would have to recognize that their neighbour is a Jewish state.
The Palestinian response frankly seems to be too quick to be taken too seriously. Netanyahu gave a an important foreign policy speech. It seems almost irresponsible for officials, representatives of any government, to come out and within minutes, after only hearing the speech that first time, without any further analysis or revision, pronounce their opinions. In fact, such a reaction is the definition of a knee-jerk reaction. It is the voicing of the first thing that comes to mind without further study. True, Palestinians were likely looking for key things, hoping for key commitments that they may not have heard, but speeches such as these require some thought and some reading between the lines to be properly understood.
It's one thing for someone writing on a blog, or a journalist to respond to a speech right away, it's quite another for a government official to respond, within seconds, to a policy speech by an adversary. One would hope that in future, cooler heads and more careful analysis will prevail.
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