President Obama has been largely ineffective in his foreign policy. But he has had at least one significant effect with his latest speech on the Middle East. He has exposed the true face of the Israeli Government. And it is a face that rejects what almost everyone else assumes is a fair solution to the Israel Palestine problem. It is a face that prefers land over peace and military dominance over even minimal justice. That is now clear.
Netanyahu articulated three "No's", in response to Obama's call for negotiations based on the "1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps" - itself hardly a radical formulation: really just a new phrase for what everyone has been talking about since president Clinton, at least. (When pundits say - ad naseum - that "everyone knows the shape of the final peace arrangement, we just don't know how to get there" - this is what they are talking about. But it turns out not everyone did have the same vision of the final arrangement!)
Netanyahu said no to the 1967 borders with minor land swaps - he wants to keep "the large settlement blocs" deep inside the West Bank, and he wants to keep the Jordan valley - and he certainly does not want to give equal territory in return. Explicitly demanding the Jordan valley was an upping of the Israeli ante. No one has mentioned that demand in a decade - and even then it was mentioned as a temporary military presence.
Netanyahu said no a Palestinian polity that includes Hamas. Prior to the PA-Hamas reconciliation his aides and sycophants often derided the possibility of reaching a peace deal with the PA since it represented only half of the Palestinians. Now that the PA can again speak for all Palestinians, Netanyahu declares the situation even more unacceptable.
Netanyahu said no to the Palestinian right of return - in any form. It is strictly a Palestinian problem, and Israel will not accept any responsibility and will certainly not accept any refugees back into its territory.
All this is designed to veto the possibility of a "two state solution" - and to be seen as such, at least by Netanyahu's coalition mates and his half of the Israeli electorate. And all this is designed to confront Obama - to embarrass him, to defeat him, and to teach him (and any other American politician who might have similar ideas) a lesson. Netanyahu is gambling, not without good cause, that AIPEC, the Christian right, and the Likud's friends in Congress will slap Obama down - and hard.
Is this good news? No - not if you are for a peaceful compromise in Israel/Palestine. But it may have the salutary effect of making the issues crystal clear: peace is not possible without the return of the occupied territories, and the Israeli government prefers the territories over peace.
The question for Jews everywhere is - will we continue to go along, now that the choice is clear?
The question for Obama is - will he put his money where his mouth is? Or is he the "anti Teddy Roosevelt." Will he continue to talk loudly and carry a tiny stick?