Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's major policy speech Sunday was viewed as a positive forward step by the Obama administration for the fact that it mentioned a Palestinian state -- a concept previously ignored and derided by Netanyahu and, even more so, his conservative Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. However, despite the ostensibly more accepting language, many others are condemning the speech for a number of reasons, and they reject Netanyahu's embrace of a Palestinian state as a red herring.
For example, senior Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat sees the speech as an end to any peace possibilities, rather than an overture for warmer relations. Reported by Al Jazeera English, Erekat responded that "Netanyahu's speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations...We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain."
Likewise, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank also condemned Netanyahu for his intransigence on key issues in the peace process, namely Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the insistence that Jerusalem serve as the Jewish state's capital, according to the Wall Street Journal. Abbas' statement accused the Israeli Prime Minister of "sabotaging" any future peace negotiations.
Also weighing in from an Arab perspective is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who scoffs at Netanyahu's demand that Arabs recognize Israel as a Jewish state, according to Haaretz. In a statement on the state-run news agency, Mubarak said this demand, in particular, "scuttles the chances for peace...You won't find anyone to answer that call in Egypt, or in any other place," Haaretz reports.
And former President Jimmy Carter, long involved in the Israeli-Arab peace process, has expressed a similar lamentation: that the speech will only hinder the peace process further. According to Haaretz, Carter told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, "In my opinion, Netanyahu brought up several obstacles to peace in his speech that others before him have not placed."
And, perhaps more predictably than other critics, Hamas has issued statements excoriating the speech as "racist and extremist", the Ma'an News Agency reports:
"Netanyahu attempted to play with words in order to mislead people, claiming he wants peace. However, his racial attitudes, when he stipulates that the Palestinians recognize Palestine as a land for the Jews, indicate that Netanyahu is a liar when he talks about peace. This speech increased hatred and spitefulness."
However, Netanyahu's allies, both domestic and abroad, laud the speech as an ideal balance between peace and security concerns. According to his conservative foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, for example, the speech reflected "the balance between our aspirations for peace and the aspiration for security...Netanyahu opened the door to the Palestinians and the Arab nations to begin peace talks, and we hope the other side will take up the offer to renew negotiations," according to the AP.
Watch Netanyahu's speech in full:
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