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9 Jul, 2009 14:27

Netanyahu’s father says his son didn't really mean what he said

Netanyahu’s father says his son didn't really mean what he said

To the ranks of skeptics about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared readiness to accept a Palestinian state was added a formidable figure – Netanyahu’s very own father.

Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu told an interviewer on Israel’s Channel Two that his son had told him that he had placed so many conditions on his offer last month of a Palestinian state as to make it unacceptable to the Palestinians. “He told me that they would never meet even one of those conditions,” he said.

In a major political address last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu, acting under intense American pressure, declared for the first time his readiness to accept a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel. However, he conditioned this acceptance on the Palestinians agreeing to their state being demilitarized and to their acknowledging Israel as “the state of the Jewish people”, thereby effectively undercutting any claims for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Other conditions he laid down included foregoing Palestinian claims on Arab-inhabited parts of Jerusalem and readiness by the Palestinians to have their air space left open to Israeli flights. These conditions were indeed immediately rejected by Palestinian spokesmen.

Prof. Netanyahu recently turned 100 but, as is evident from television interviews, remains fully coherent mentally. His political views have always been on the far-right of the Israeli spectrum and he remains one of a diminishing number of advocates of a Greater Israel stretching between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. The elder Netanyahu, a prominent historian who taught most of his academic life at universities in the United States, was the dominant figure in shaping the world view of his son. Even in Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister a decade ago, the younger Netanyahu seemed torn between the ideological world view that he absorbed at his father’s feet and political realities. The latter finally forced him to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians within the framework of the Israeli occupation.

Another skeptic about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s true intentions is opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, who on Wednesday termed his new-found support for a Palestinian state “the height of hypocrisy”. In her talks with Netanyahu when he was forming his government, she said, “I understood that a significant change in world-view is necessary, but it is not there at the moment.” She has therefore refused to join his coalition, she said.

The prime minister’s declared acceptance of a two-state solution could be seen as the ultimate betrayal of his father’s vision and raises the possibility that Prof. Netanyahu’s own son might be the Israeli leader who finally sinks the idea of a Greater Israel for good by overseeing the creation of a Palestinian state on his watch. In this context, the assurances that Prof. Netanyahu reported receiving from the prime minister that a Palestinian state would never actually arise can be seen as an effort by the son to ease his aged father’s anxieties.

Left-wing opponents of the prime minister find consolation in the fact that in his first 100 days of office, Netanyahu has repeatedly bent to political imperatives. This occurred again last week when he bowed to political pressure and suddenly reversed his position on a major tax issue. “We ought to sing the praises of a prime minister who adjusts his views to prevailing circumstances,” wrote columnist Gideon Levy in the newspaper Ha’aretz on Wednesday. “We would be better off having a doormat for a prime minister than a hero. We have had more than enough of the latter.”

The prime minister’s positions, particularly on Jerusalem, are seen as likely to soften in the cauldron of negotiations, particularly with the Americans riding close herd, as President Obama’s administration clearly intends to do so.

Abraham Rabinovich for RT