|Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would need to be demilitarised [AFP]
It was billed as a peace speech, but Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, echoed the words of a colonialist conqueror when he delivered his much-anticipated policy speech at Bar Illan University.
Without ambiguity, he told the Palestinians that their existence and future hinges on their acquiescence - the relinquishing of their own history, rights and aspirations.
In effect, Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to accept total surrender.
It was a speech reminding the vanquished that they have no rights beyond accepting the terms of their defeat.
In the tradition of victorious colonialists, Netanyahu's vision for the future emanates from a self-entitlement to rewrite history and to determine the fate of his defeated subjects.
Netanyahu's speech is a blow to a justice-based solution to the conflict, not merely because it offers no more than a powerless entity subject to de facto Israeli control, but more significantly because the Israeli leader's vision is based on an extremist Zionist narrative that promotes the view that the historic land of Palestine – recognised as Israel and the West Bank — is the homeland of the Jewish people.
Such an account categorically denies Palestinian history and Arab roots in Palestine and therefore does not acknowledge the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948, or the 1967 occupation of West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Instead they are the "undisputed lands of Israel".
"The state of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and will remain so," Netanyahu told his audience.
"The connection of the Jewish people to the land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years.
"Judea and Samaria - the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah.
"This is not a foreign land, this is the land of our forefathers," he said emphatically to loud applause.
Throughout his speech Netanyahu never even remotely referred to an occupation, or an end to occupation.
Instead, he referred to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in the 1967 war as "when the soldiers entered Judea and Samaria".
The presence of the Palestinians "in the land of Israel", as Netanyahu framed it, is a problem that Israel has had to deal with to ensure its security, rather that of an occupation and dispossession of an indigenous people.
"But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians," Netanyahu said.
In other words, the presence of Palestinians in their lands is portrayed as an accident of history – thus annulling in one speech their history and stripping them of their legal, let alone their national, rights.
It is only in the context of denying Palestinian history and identity that Netanyahu's proposed demands should be understood and evaluated.
Netanyahu's two preconditions for peace are a logical consequence of his blatant and distorted revisionist history.
Asking the Arabs and the Palestinians to recognise that Israel is the historic "Jewish homeland" is paramount to demanding that the Arab, Muslim and Palestinians themselves recant their own history, roots and identity.
Thus by denying their own rights, Palestinians are reduced to a foreign community that accidentally found itself in another people's land and must accept the terms of its "hosts".
Communities as such do not exercise the right to self-determination or national rights.
Therefore, it is only natural, following Netanyahu's line of thinking, that a Palestinian state is only accepted if it is devoid of real sovereignty or independence.
It is misleading to interpret Netanyahu's conditions as that of accepting a two-state solution.
The vision that Netanyahu laid out stripped the Palestinians of their right to self-determination and replaced it with Israel's "right" to continue its domination of Palestinian lands and lives.
He wants occupation without the burden and the responsibility of spearheading one.
|Netanyahu's proposal would leave a Palestinian state undefended [EPA]
He laid out a vision for an isolated and besieged Palestinian entity that would have no control over the land beneath it, nor the skies above it.
"The territory in Palestinian hands must be demilitarised - in other words, without an army, without control of airspace and with effective security safeguards," he said.
His demand for a "demilitarised state" is thus a logical demand, for how else can Netanyahu and Israel and its future leaders ensure the total subordination of future Palestinian generations who will be borne into a perpetual prison in the guise of statehood?
Seen in this light, from a Palestinian viewpoint, Netanyahu is not only trying to deprive Palestinians of their present aspirations for independence, but to deny future generations the right to dream of freedom.
Breakdown of spirit
Total subordination of the vanquished, in the logic of conquerors, is only possible if the defeated are denied the right and the ability to resist.
Disarming an imprisoned population to ensure its control in the name of statehood is a prerequisite to ensure that future generations will not rebel against Israeli control.
But it is not the most dangerous aspect of Netanyahu's terms for Palestinian surrender.
Netanyahu is after a moral and psychological breakdown of the Palestinian spirit.
Breaking the spirit of a nation is not achieved solely through depriving Palestinians of the right to resist or of their right to self-defence, but by forcing the Palestinians to relinquish their memory.
Memory is the key element here.
It is astonishing that Washington and Western governments rushed to embrace Netanyahu's call for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which is paramount to a blatant call to erase Palestinian history.
In his speech, Netanyahu rewrote the history of the conflict by erasing any mention of Palestinians' right to their historic land, denying Palestinian identity and the saga of Israeli-imposed dispossession of the Palestinian people and occupation of Palestinian land.
Netanyahu's narrative, long propagated by the Israeli right wing and extremist Zionists, is that the establishment of Israel was an exercise of the right of the Jewish people to their natural homeland - Israel bears no responsibility for the Palestinian refugees and finally there was never a problem of dispossession and occupation.
"The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been and remains - the refusal to recognise the right of the Jewish people to their own state in their historical homeland," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu's rhetoric is consistent with his long-standing politics and reflects the prevailing ideology of the Israeli establishment.
|In Cairo, Obama offered a new beginning based on 'mutual understanding' [Reuters]
What is more disturbing is Washington's welcome of the speech as a positive step towards peace.
In his Cairo speech, Barack Obama, the US president, offered a new beginning with the Arab and Muslims worlds based "on mutual understanding and respect".
By hailing Netanyahu's racist policy speech, Obama is squandering whatever momentum he sought to build as he perpetuates America's endorsement of Israeli superiority.
Bill Clinton, the former US president, made the same mistake when he unconditionally supported the similar "generous offer" of Ehud Barrak, then Israeli prime minister, who proposed establishing a fragmented, powerless entity in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under the guise of Palestinian statehood.
Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, rejected the offer, and disillusioned Palestinians erupted in an uprising against Israel - the second Intifada.
Neither the Israeli nor American leaders seem to learn from history.
No Palestinian leader, moderate or extremist, will accept such subordination.
For the Palestinians it is a betrayal of their history, as well as a betrayal of future generations.