Abbas, Netanyahu UN Speeches Were a Missed Opportunity

September 30, 2014

In their speeches to the United Nations General Assembly, both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu missed the opportunity to put forth fresh or bold ideas for advancing hopes of reaching peace.

Both leaders appealed to their domestic constituencies, using harsh rhetoric guaranteed to further widen the already-massive gaps between the two sides.

In particular, Abbas’ repeated use of the word “genocide” to describe Israeli military action in Gaza was gratuitously offensive as well as wrong, and sent a message that we at J Street, joining Israelis and Jews around the world, vehemently reject.

Netanyahu, in making the case for global attention to the very real dangers of militant Islam, failed to acknowledge that lack of freedom and independence is the source of much of the Palestinian anger that unfortunately fuels radical Islamic ideologies in Gaza and the West Bank.

Nor did he acknowledge that Israel’s long-term security and survival are at least as dependent on achieving a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians as on the forces of moderation prevailing against extremism in the broader Middle East.

Neither spoke the plain truth: that their peoples will only find peace and security through a two-state agreement.

Abbas appeared to hope that Israel can be coerced into making peace through diplomatic isolation and ultimatums–which it won’t be. UN action, such as putting forward a framework for meaningful negotiations based on internationally-supported parameters, can play a constructive role but cannot be a substitute for an agreement.

And Netanyahu advanced the novel but unrealistic theory that rapprochement with the Arab world could precede, and even pave the way to, peace with the Palestinians.

Rapprochement with its neighbors, while desirable in its own right, is not a substitute for a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians to end the Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

Netanyahu’s call would have more weight if he would finally acknowledge the Arab Peace Initiative by name as a good faith opening bid by those countries to seek a regional peace agreement.