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‘Netanyahu yields on Palestinian sovereignty’: A note of caution

Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s keynote policy address to be delivered at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on Sunday evening at 8 pm (1 pm EST, 6 pm London time, which will be carried live on many international TV news networks), we may be about to see a lot of headlines like the one in the Washington Times today (Netanyahu yields on Palestinian sovereignty).

In fact, contrary to the constant misreporting in the international media about Israel, and about Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, Netanyahu accepted the principle of Palestinian sovereignty when he signed the Hebron Accords and later the Wye agreement with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at the White House on October 23, 1998. (I covered both at the time as a reporter for the Sunday Telegraph.)

On November 17, 1998, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved the Wye agreement by an overwhelming majority, by a vote of 75-19.
Netanyahu then withdrew from large swathes of the West Bank. Israeli troops only returned to some of those areas after Arafat launched his intifada on Israeli towns and cities in September 2000, resulting in one of the bloodiest waves of terrorism a civilian population has had to endure in modern times.
Netanyahu’s declarations of goodwill on Sunday will again be worthless unless the Palestinians — both Fatah and Hamas supporters — decide they actually want to live in peace with a Jewish state. Every Palestinian opinion poll indicates they do not.
Let’s hope that Netanyahu’s now appearing to give in to President Obama’s pressure will result in the Obama administration also now exerting some real pressure on the Palestinian Authority and on the Arab League to make peace with Israel.

Tom GrossTom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.


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