News Analysis: Pessimism Hovers over Netanyahu's Upcoming Policy Speech
    2009-06-09 03:59:33     Xinhua      Web Editor: Tian Tian
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver a key diplomatic policy speech next week, which analysts cautioned would unlikely bring any tangible impetus into the stagnant peace process with the Palestinians.

The planned address is regarded to some extent as a response to U.S. President Barack Obama's landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, during which Obama urged Israel to freeze settlement expansion and accept the two-state principle.

Prior to his speech next Sunday, Netanyahu is expected to consult with other cabinet ministers, most of whom are from the traditionally hawkish right-wing bloc, and to meet Obama's special envoy George Mitchell.

While it is all but certain that Netanyahu will dwell upon the Iranian nuclear issue and the Syrian peace track, the address will lay emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front, said Shmuel Bar, a political expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

Regarding this decades-old conflict, Netanyahu would remind the Palestinians first and foremost of their obligations in order for peace talks to resume, including renouncing violence, building responsible institutions and ending Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip, said Bar.

"At a time when Hamas rules over Gaza, it's impossible to just forget this when negotiating with the Palestinian (National) Authority," he added.

While highlighting what the Palestinians should do, Netanyahu would also have to state what the Jewish state plans to do, particularly with regard to the settlement issue, which has put Israel at odds with the United States, its most important ally.

Some analysts believe that Obama's speech has given Netanyahu a window of opportunity to move away from the radical remarks he and some of his ministers have said in recent months, but given the current configuration of the right-leaning government, expectations are low for Netanyahu to soften his stance.

Netanyahu will deliver nothing, said Shulamit Aloni, a former education minister from the left-wing Meretz party, which has long called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"What he should say is that with joy we accept the decisions of the United Nations that call for two states for two peoples, but of course he won't," she told Xinhua.

Netanyahu had the opportunity to create a government with Tzipi Livni, who heads the centrist Kadima party, but he chose to turn his back on the chance for peace and formed a coalition with right- wing parties, added Aloni.

While Obama instilled hope in many Israelis with his carefully chosen words in the Cairo speech, many others are pessimistic about Netanyahu's room for maneuver. In light of the pressure both from the United States and his coalition partners, Netanyahu is very much caught between a rock and a hard place.

Even if Netanyahu's speech is somewhat conciliatory, it is still elusive what the next step will be. "Well, they can always talk, but the question is whether it will be possible to bring something to fruition," said Bar.

"There'll never be peace in my lifetime," said Aloni.

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