Netanyahu's Aipac speech: paying lip-service to peace

The Israeli prime minister's intransigence makes peace talks implausible.

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) last night, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, appeared to give a two-fingered salute to the Obama administration, which has pushed for a freeze on settlement-building with the hope of peace talks with the Palestinians resuming.

"Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital," Netanyahu told the powerful pro-Israel lobby. "All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset . . .

"Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building in them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution."

He added:

Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. My government has consistently shown its commitment to peace in both word and deed.

From day one, we called on the Palestinian Authority to begin peace negotiations without delay. I make that same call today. President Abbas, come and negotiate peace.

It is a deliberately reductionist comment, and one that is likely to stoke anger.

Lest we forget, Netanyahu's proclaimed backing for a two-state solution comes with conditions that are unacceptable to the Palestinians. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz explained, a year ago:

Netanyahu seeks to deny the Palestinians four rights of any sovereign state: control of its airspace; control of its electromagnetic spectrum; the right to maintain an army and to sign military alliances; and, most importantly, control of the border crossings where arms and terrorists could pass. Netanyahu believes Israel must retain all of these.

In a landmark address in June last year, he said for the first time that he supported a two-state solution -- but one that denied the right of return to Palestinian refugees ("any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel's continued existence as the state of the Jewish people") and gave Israel an undivided Jerusalem (the Jerusalem law was deemed at the time to be in contravention of international law). He also rejected the suggestion that settlement-building be suspended.

At the time, many foreign leaders expressed cautious approval at the prospect of dialogue reopening, although it was also widely accepted -- within the Arab world and without -- that these terms were not viable.

Sadly, Netanyahu's speech to Aipac shows very little movement. Responding to his June 2009 address, Ben Caspit wrote in the Hebrew-language paper Ma'ariv:

If Netanyahu had the slightest belief that there was some chance that the Palestinians would be capable of acquiescing to any of the conditions he had set, he would have refrained from saying what he did.

This was borne out last night. While paying lip-service to diplomacy, the Israeli prime minister remains unwilling to make the concessions necessary to make real progress.

As the diplomatic spat between Israel and the US rumbles on, Barack Obama would do well to capitalise on the momentum gained by the successful passage of the health-care bill to push for a freeze on settlement-building, and substantive peace talks.

As many commentators have noted, this is the only way to shore up security for Israeli civilians, and give Palestinian civilians the "security, dignity and peace" that Netanyahu claims to desire.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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“I felt very lonely”: addressing the untold story of isolation among young mothers

With one in five young mothers lonely “all the time”, it’s time for employers and services to step up.

“Despite having my child with me all the time, I felt very lonely,” says Laura Davies. A member of an advisory panel for the Young Women’s Trust, she had her son age 20. Now, with a new report suggesting that one in five young mums “feels lonely all the time”, she’s sharing her story.

Polling commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust has highlighted the isolation that young motherhood can bring. Of course, getting out and about the same as you did before is never easy once there’s a young child in the picture. For young mothers, however, the situation can be particularly difficult.

According to the report, over a quarter of young mothers leave the house just once a week or less, with some leaving just once a month.

Aside from all the usual challenges – like wrestling a colicky infant into their jacket, or pumping milk for the trip with one hand while making sure no-one is crawling into anything dangerous with the other – young mothers are more likely to suffer from a lack of support network, or to lack the confidence to approach mother-baby groups and other organisations designed to help. In fact, some 68 per cent of young mothers said they had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group.

Davies paints what research suggests is a common picture.

“Motherhood had alienated me from my past. While all my friends were off forging a future for themselves, I was under a mountain of baby clothes trying to navigate my new life. Our schedules were different and it became hard to find the time.”

“No one ever tells you that when you have a child you will feel an overwhelming sense of love that you cannot describe, but also an overwhelming sense of loneliness when you realise that your life won’t be the same again.

More than half of 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed said that they felt lonelier since becoming a mother, with more than two-thirds saying they had fewer friends than before. Yet making new friends can be hard, too, especially given the judgement young mothers can face. In fact, 73 per cent of young mothers polled said they’d experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour when out with their children in public.

As Davies puts it, “Trying to find mum friends when your self-confidence is at rock bottom is daunting. I found it easier to reach out for support online than meet people face to face. Knowing they couldn’t judge me on my age gave me comfort.”

While online support can help, however, loneliness can still become a problem without friends to visit or a workplace to go to. Many young mothers said they would be pleased to go back to work – and would prefer to earn money rather than rely on benefits. After all, typing some invoices, or getting back on the tills, doesn’t just mean a paycheck – it’s also a change to speak to someone old enough to understand the words “type”, “invoice” and “till”.

As Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton explains, “More support is needed for young mothers who want to work. This could include mentoring to help ease women’s move back into education or employment.”

But mothers going back to work don’t only have to grapple with childcare arrangements, time management and their own self-confidence – they also have to negotiate with employers. Although the 2003 Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young children to apply to work flexibly, there is no obligation for their employer to agree. (Even though 83 per cent of women surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust said flexible hours would help them find secure work, 26 per cent said they had had a request turned down.)

Dr Easton concludes: “The report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.”

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland