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ISRAEL: Did Netanyahu rip off peacenik policy?

March 1, 2010 | 10:48 am

Hey, there's this guy out there doing my routine, Pete Townshend might (or not) have once harrumphed  about Jimi Hendrix. To this very day, some disagree about who first broke guitars on stage and who did it better. Now, an ad in a new campaign for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians presents the diplomatic version of that rock 'n' roll copyright question: Who broke from tradition first in calling for the two-state solution and who can do it better (or at all).

In the spot,  Yossi Beilin sits on his couch, watching TV in his fluffy doggie slippers, perhaps a humorous reference to the days when Yitzhak Rabin had dismissed him as being Shimon Peres' poodle. His wife Daniella sits beside him, reading Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoirs, "Living History." On TV is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivering his famous foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University. "We will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state," says Bibi's radiophonic voice.

Did you hear that?!, goes Beilin to Daniella. Replaying at full volume, sure enough, this is what the prime minister said. Hmm. Sounds familiar. Hey, didn't we say this already in Geneva?  Of course you did, she says -- but he is the prime minister, after all; surely, he thought of it by himself.

"Everything Netanyahu is so decisively demanding already appears in the complete Geneva Accord, which has also been signed by senior Palestinian leaders," says the narrator. "So let's not waste any more time."

Some had praised Netanyahu for taking his time before that speech last June,  for keeping his foreign policy cards close to the vest and not revealing his hand under U.S. pressure. Others criticized him for precisely that, saying he erred in procrastination until he had no choice but to state the obvious, only too late to do any good.

While some find Israelis have shifted into more conservative positions, terms like "Independent Palestinian state" -- once used only by the far left wing -- are now mainstream. Whether Netanyahu willingly crossed the Rubicon to accepting a Palestinian state under (very) certain terms or was dragged across it reluctantly, the fact is that Beilin -- and his friends in various initiatives of Israel's left-wing -- did say it first.  Question is, who can do it better (or at all)?

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Above: Geneva Initiative campaign clip. Credit: YouTube