Netanyahu to reply to Obama on peace in Mideast

JERUSALEM — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a major foreign policy address today, the setting will be part of the message: He will speak at Bar-Ilan University, which was founded in 1955 to unite secular learning with religious Zionism.

Advisers to Netanyahu and Israeli political analysts say the speech will be a response to President Barack Obama's address to Muslims this month at Cairo University. Netanyahu, they say, wants to inject a Zionist "narrative" into a discussion that he believes was tilted in Obama's speech toward the Arab version of events.

While Netanyahu's remarks are expected to range across issues, including Obama's demand for a freeze on Jewish settlements and his call for the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will center on Netanyahu's assertion that Arabs must recognize Israel as a state for the peace process to succeed.

The point is not a condition for the start of peace talks with the Palestinians or other Arab nations, Netanyahu's advisers have said. But just as Israel is being asked to acknowledge the Palestinian identity of a neighboring country under the "two-state solution" advocated by Obama and European leaders, Netanyahu believes an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a similar acknowledgment from the other side, they say.

The runup to Netanyahu's speech has been dominated by debate in the Israeli media and in political circles about how he will address Obama's call for a settlement freeze, and whether he will endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu and his governing coalition oppose both ideas, arguing that security concerns still make creation of a Palestinian state and a withdrawal from the West Bank too risky. That argument is likely to be bolstered by the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose support of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and pursuit of nuclear technology are among Israel's chief threats.

Netanyahu to reply to Obama on peace in Mideast 06/13/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 9:04pm]

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