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Analysts Discuss Netanyahu’s Speech

Analysts discuss the significance of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's statements accepting a demilitarized Palestinian state.

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    And for more on the prime minister's speech and what it means for the Obama administration's hope of reviving Israel-Palestinian peace talks, we turn to two longtime NewsHour analysts.

    David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he's the co-author of "Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East."

    And Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya, a Middle East satellite news channel, he's also a senior correspondent for the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

    So welcome back to you both.

    David, beginning with you, now here's Bibi Netanyahu, just last month he was here with President Obama, refused to say the magic words "two-state solution." Why did he reverse course?

    DAVID MAKOVSKY, Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Well, it's clear that I think his meeting with the president was a big part of it, including the president's speech in Cairo, as well. And I think he thought by discussing the powers and what the state would be, I think his term was we'll deal with the terminology later.

    But he saw that that didn't really go over well in Washington. Also, the U.S. Congress had changed since he was prime minister in the 1990s, more of a Republican Congress at that time. And I think he felt that he really has to articulate it and tell the Israeli public straight out.

    And this is a big deal for him, because for his whole professional life he's been against the Palestinian state, even though he's favored negotiations with the Palestinians and talked about autonomy with them and the like.

    And what's also fascinating, just from an historic point of view, is that in 2005, after the Gaza pullout, Ariel Sharon, who was the head of Likud, left the party and took a lot of people with him who believe the Likud had to be firmly centrist.

    So here was Netanyahu now presiding over a more, let's say, ideological Likud, and he has to tell those people, no, there's going to have to be a two-state solution. So I think, as the White House said on Air Force One today, I think this is a big step for him.


    A big deal, a big step, Hisham?

    HISHAM MELHEM, Washington bureau chief, Al Arabiya: In the pantheon of Israeli policies and in the world of Benjamin Netanyahu, it may be a tiny step. Here he gives a verbal nod to the prime minister of a two state, and then he goes on to present essentially impossible preconditions.

    He said, Let's negotiate without preconditions, and then he set out to put impossible preconditions: Jerusalem, unified capital of Israel; no settlement freeze whatsoever; demilitarized state; no army; no control of air space; no borders.

    So essentially he's undermining all the attributes of nationhood. This is occupation-lite.