Netanyahu pounced on Abbas' words:
He said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that's odd. Our conflict … was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank. So … I guess that the settlements he's talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva. Maybe that's what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn't say from 1967; he said from 1948.
This is another Netanyahu ploy. Of course Abbas regards all Israeli territory as occupied. That doesn't mean he won't cede it. He explicitly said he would:
In the absence of absolute justice, we decided to adopt the path of relative justice—justice that is possible and could correct part of the grave historical injustice committed against our people. Thus, we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22 percent of the territory of historical Palestine—on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
So when Netanyahu accuses Abbas of refusing to accept Israel's 1948 borders, he isn't identifying a substantive issue. He's using a clash of narratives to cloud the Palestinian case against new West Bank settlements.
4. Peace. Netanyahu told the U.N. that Israel presented a "sweeping peace offer" in 2008, but "President Abbas didn't even respond to it." He charged that "the Palestinians want a state without peace" and that they "should first make peace with Israel and then get their state."
Make peace with Israel? How? By signing a piece of paper? Or by not killing Israelis?
For many years, Netanyahu's principal contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship has been his insistence on "peace with security." What matters, on this view, is what you do, not what you say. If Palestinians sign the Oslo accords but then launch an intifada of suicide bombings against Israel, that isn't peace. And that's exactly what happened under Yasser Arafat, as Netanyahu reminded the U.N.
But in that case, the true measure of Abbas' commitment to peace is Palestinian violence. Abbas became prime minister of the P.A. in 2003 and president in 2005. During his tenure, Palestinian violence against Israelis has plummeted. In 2001 and 2002, more than 3,500 Israeli civilians were wounded in terror attacks, according to official Israeli data. After that, the tally of wounded fell by half almost every year. By 2007, it was down to 110. In 2002, suicide terror attacks killed 220 Israelis. By 2004, that number was down to 55. By 2007, it had fallen to three. So far in 2011, Israel has reported 12 deaths in Israeli territory from Palestinian violence. Of these, virtually all were traced to militants from Gaza, which Hamas controls. The data show no known fatal terror attacks in Israel from the Abbas-controlled West Bank.
None of this invalidates Netanyahu's legitimate concerns. Israel has well-founded fears for its security, backed up by years of Palestinian terrorism and the rise of Hamas in Gaza. Netanyahu is right that Israel's withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza failed to bring peace. Palestinians, intermediary nations, and international bodies will have to do a much better job of planning and delivering Israeli security in a transition to Palestinian statehood.