Benjamin Netanyahu as peace-builder:
His speech at Washington talks, September 2010

Published: 26 September 2010
Briefing Number 268

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Summary:   On 2 September 2010 the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority resumed direct peace negotiations in Washington DC. 

The talks opened with speeches by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.  The ceremony was reported by the world’s media, and attended by President Obama, Egypt’s President Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Tony Blair representing the so-called ‘Quartet’, Palestinian political leaders, and large numbers of staff and diplomats from each delegation.     

Many commentators around the world automatically assume that Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu does not want peace and is not willing to compromise; that it does not believe in Palestinian national rights, that it suffers a persecution complex, and that it wants to deny the Palestinians any hope.   

This Briefing contains extracts from Mr Netanyahu’s speeches at the opening ceremony and at the dinner afterwards.  His words are a complete and startling refutation of these claims.  Netanyahu’s tone surprised his supporters, and left his critics bemused, trying to explain away the tangible shift in his approach.

We juxtapose the Prime Minister’s words with various common claims made by detractors of Israel and of Mr Netanyahu himself. 

The two speeches Mr Netanyahu were published on 3 September 2010 by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its website at

What the critics say…..

“Israel can’t see that its long-term need is for peace, and instead it thinks that it can prevail by military means….”

….. and what Mr Netanyahu said on 2 September 2010:

“Our goal is shalom.  Our goal is to forge a secure and durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  We don’t seek a brief interlude between two wars.  We don’t seek a temporary respite between outbursts of terror.  We seek a peace that will end the conflict between us once and for all.  We seek a peace that will last for generations – our generation, our childrens’ generation, and the next. This is the peace that my people fervently want. This is the peace all our peoples fervently aspire to.  This is the peace they deserve….” 

What the critics say…..

“Israel does not really want peace and certainly is not ready to compromise….”

….. and what Mr Netanyahu said:

“President Abbas, history has given us a rare opportunity to end the conflict…. to end the bloodshed.  A true peace, a lasting peace, would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides – from the Israeli side, and from the Palestinian side….The people of Israel and I as their prime minister, are prepared to walk this road and to go a long way, in a short time, to achieve a genuine peace….”   

What the critics say…..

“Israel is at war with the Palestinian people….”

…. and what Mr Netanyahu said:

“A lasting peace is a peace between peoples – between Israelis and Palestinians.  We must learn to live together, to live next to one another and with one another..…. President Abbas, you are my partner in peace.  And it is up to us, with the help of our friends, to conclude the agonising conflict between our peoples and to afford them a new beginning….”

What the critics say……

“Israel wants all the land for itself…..”

…. and what Mr Netanyahu said:

“The Jewish people are not strangers in our ancestral homeland, the land of our forefathers.  But we recognise that another people shares this land with us.  I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both our peoples to live in peace and security and in dignity….”       

What the critics say….

“Israel does not believe in Palestinian national rights….”

….and what Mr Netanyahu said:

“President Abbas, I am fully aware and I respect your people’s desire for sovereignty.  I’m convinced that it’s possible to reconcile that desire with Israel’s need for security……”

What the critics say…..

“Israel wants to keep the Palestinians down, and deny them any hope….”

…..and what Mr Netanyahu said:

“I see what a period of calm has created in the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, of Jenin, throughout the West Bank, a great economic boom.  And real peace can turn this boom into a permanent era of progress and hope.  If we work together, we can take advantage of the great benefits afforded by our unique place under the sun….. Our geography, our history, our culture, our climate, the talents of our people can be unleashed to create extraordinary opportunities in tourism, in trade, in industry, in energy, in water, in so many areas…..”

What the critics say….

“Israel is locked in the past, and haunted by a persecution complex….”

…..and what Mr Netanyahu said:
“I’ve been making the case for Israel all of my life.  But I didn’t come here today to make an argument.  I came here today to make peace.  I didn’t come here to play a blame game where even the winners lose.  Everyone loses if there is no peace.  I came here to achieve a peace that will bring a lasting benefit to all. …. We cannot erase the past, but it is within our power to change the future….“   

What the critics say….

“Israel oppresses the Arabs living in the country…”

…. and what Mr Netanyahu said:
“There are more than 1 million non-Jews living in Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people, who have full civil rights.  There is no contradiction between the nation state that guarantees the national rights of the majority and guaranteeing the civil rights, the full civil equality, of the minority…..”

Some related Beyond Images Briefings

2008: Israel offers to pull out of 93% of the West Bank, plus give 7% more land – Palestinians say no (Briefing 225 – 25 December 2008)

Camp David and Taba: what did Israel offer? (Briefing 21, 14 May 2003)

Ariel Sharon: unwilling to compromise….? (Briefing 32, 5 May 2003)