As if we could even think of taking Netanyahu at his word

[Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu said that he still wanted “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that he had not intended to reverse the position he took endorsing that in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. “I haven’t changed my policy,” he said in the interview, his first since his resounding victory on Tuesday, which handed him a fourth term. “What has changed is the reality.”

“I don’t want a one-state solution; I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” he said. “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.” . . .

“I wasn’t trying to suppress a vote,” he said [of his dire warnings that Arabs were voting in large numbers]. “I was trying to get something to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party, and I was calling on our voters to come out.”[1]

Let’s just stipulate that it is possible to interpret Netanyahu’s earlier remarks[2] in the way that he now claims he meant them. They remain deceptive.

“Washington has long questioned Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution and his seriousness about negotiations toward that outcome, like the talks led by Secretary of State John Kerry that collapsed last spring.” Palestinians abandoned Kerry’s attempt to negotiate a deal in part because Israel, and Netanyahu in particular, have been intransigent on freezing, let alone rolling back, settlements that are illegal under international law and that undermine the viability of any future Palestinian state.[3] Even if the U.S. could be seen as an unbiased mediator—and it can’t—Israel’s actions defeat the entire purpose of the negotiations.

So, if in a thought experiment, we were to reverse the roles, with Palestine (not just the Gaza Strip with its largely ineffective rockets[4]) not just “mowing the lawn” in Israel, but “removing the topsoil” (euphemisms a senior Pentagon official used in assessing Israel’s brutal attack on the Gaza Strip last year[5]), if it were the Palestinians occupying Israeli territory and building illegal settlements whenever they got the itch, what can we imagine Netanyahu’s response would be? Do we really imagine that such behavior would lead to a “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution” with “real negotiations with people,” in this thought experiment, Israelis, rather than Palestinians, “who are committed to peace?”[6]

This, of course, would be absolute nonsense. But for some reason, it has been acceptable for Israelis to claim that Palestinians are not “committed to peace,” but not for Palestinians to say the same about Israelis.

Such hypocrisy is so blatant that it is inconceivable that Israeli politicians are oblivious to it and inconceivable that even if they were oblivious to it, that it had not been brought to their attention. So when Netanyahu repeats his demand that Palestinians should commit to peace, while refusing to restrain his own criminal actions, he is attempting a deception, and narrowly avoiding a lie.[7]

  1. [1]Jodi Rudoren and Michael D. Shear, “Israel’s Netanyahu Reopens Door to Palestinian State, but White House Is Unimpressed,” New York Times, March 19, 2015,
  2. [2]Jodi Rudoren, “Netanyahu Declares No Palestinian State if He’s Re-elected,” New York Times, March 16, 2015,
  3. [3]Avigail Abarbanel, “A change needs to come,” Electronic Intifada, May 25, 2008,; Zack Beauchamp, “It’s over: Why the Palestinians are finally giving up on Obama and the US peace process,” Vox, January 22, 2015,; Peter Beaumont, “Netanyahu insists he is ‘under attack for defending Israel’ after remarks from US official,” Guardian, October 29, 2014,; Marilyn Katz, “Israel Needs a New Narrative,” In These Times, April 11, 2012,; Ilene Prusher, “Influential Palestinians Say It’s Time for a One-State Solution,” Time, May 24, 2013,; Jodi Rudoren, “Israel Jabs Back After U.S. Official Calls Netanyahu a Coward,” New York Times, October 29, 2014,; Stephen M. Walt, “Netanyahu’s Not Chickenshit, the White House Is,” Foreign Policy, October 31, 2014,
  4. [4]Michael Lerner, “Israel has broken my heart: I’m a rabbi in mourning for a Judaism being murdered by Israel,” Salon, August 4, 2014,
  5. [5]Mark Perry, “Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’,” Al Jazeera, August 27, 2014,
  6. [6]Jodi Rudoren and Michael D. Shear, “Israel’s Netanyahu Reopens Door to Palestinian State, but White House Is Unimpressed,” New York Times, March 19, 2015,
  7. [7]The distinction between deception and lying rests on an omission of relevant information in the former rather than the expression of an outright falsehood in the latter. Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life (New York: Vintage, 1999).

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