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Bibi's conditions

The Washington Times's Eli Lake reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will say in his speech this weekend that he is prepared to accept Palestinian statehood under the following conditions:

• Any Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without an air force, full-fledged army or heavy weapons.

• Palestinians may not sign treaties with powers hostile to Israel.

• A Palestinian state must allow Israeli civilian and military aircraft unfettered access to Palestinian airspace, allow Israel to retain control of the airwaves and to station Israeli troops on a future state's eastern and southern borders.

• Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state, a nod to the hawkish side of Mr. Netanyahu's governing coalition that has raised concerns that the Palestinian Authority, which nominally governs the West Bank, does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Lake characterizes this recognition by Netanyahu as a "major shift," while Spencer Ackerman quips that the prime minister is "stepping boldly into 1993."

The third paragraph is likely to be the most contentious condition, and creates a brand new issue for negotiations that didn't really really need any new issues. I think accepting a Palestinian state is indeed a major shift from Netanyahu, though crucially, it's one that doesn't really require him to do very much while deflecting attention away from the one active thing that Israel hasn't done since 1993, freezing settlement growth in the West Bank.

Starting negotiations over a new set of conditions before taking action on a previous set isn't exactly progress. Hopefully Obama doesn't fall for it, as Gershom Gorenberg writes in a new piece for FP:

Most previous U.S. administrations have avoided confrontation over settlements if peace talks were in progress. Obama is right to avoid this mistake, because construction is aimed at preempting the negotiations.

Unintentionally, Wallerstein made the point clear in his radio interview. There are already 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank, he noted. (The figure doesn't include the Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.) If we really make peace, he said, it won't matter if the number has risen to 325,000. A few seconds later, he recalled the trauma to Israeli society caused by evacuating 9,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The classic definition of chutzpah is murdering your parents and begging for the mercy of the court because you're an orphan. Adding thousands of settlers to existing communities so that later you can claim that evacuating them would be too great a trauma could be another definition.

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