I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.
Wow, this is encouraging. Or it would be, if one were not aware that Israeli landmark statements always come with a caveat that in fact nullifies the supposed watershed. Torture is banned -- except in cases of national security danger (i.e., torture is as allowed as before). Illegal outposts will be removed -- but first an agreement will be sought with the settlers (i.e., the outposts will remain in place).
So that, in this case, one immediately begins a search for the caveat. Not a daunting task; a few paragraphs on, Netanyahu adds:
Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
So that the negotiations without preconditions do have a precondition after all: the Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
This requirement has no precedent. Never in the history of diplomacy has a country been asked to recognize the official religion of another nation. (Although some fool will try to make you believe that it's not a religion, that it's more complicated than that, let's be clear: the ONLY way you can enter the Jewish people is through religion.) For instance, when Argentina and Britain resumed diplomatic ties after the Falklands war, the former did not recognize the latter as an Anglican country; nor did the latter recognize the former as a Catholic nation. A country's official faith is a strictly internal matter, and it's none of another country's business to act as a guarantor of that state religion.
The very reasonable Palestinian position has been that Israel has the right to define what it wants or doesn't want to be, but Palestine (or any other country, for that matter) should not be asked to participate in the formulation of that definition. Senior negotiator Saeb Erekat put it crystal-clear in a 16 Nov 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post:
Erekat told the Post it was up to Israel to decide what to call itself, and that the Palestinians would recognize it accordingly. "Like the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said, "if you change your name to 'the Jewish state of Israel,' we'll call you that."
The road map and previous agreements had required the Palestinian leadership to unequivocally recognize Israel, Erekat said in a telephone interview. "We did it.... At the United Nations, you are called 'the state of Israel.' We recognize that."
What part of this recognition does Netanyahu not understand?
All Israel would have to do to satisfy its own ego is to adopt the name "Jewish State of Israel." The PA would immediately recognize it under that name. Why don't they adopt it?
The answer, of course, is that Israel does not want peace. All it wants is a status quo in which it can build ever more settlements (pardon!!!, "settlement extensions to accommodate natural growth"). If it wanted peace, it would not ask of the Palestinians what has never, ever, been asked of any other party to a diplomatic negotiation.