A Separated Peace

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu won the 1996 election by mobilizing voters against his opponent’s alleged intention to “divide Jerusalem.” Nearly two decades later, he remains committed to old, vacuous slogans about a “united Jerusalem” – a conviction that could, yet again, unravel the Israel-Palestine peace process.

MADRID – Back in 1996, Binyamin Netanyahu won a general election by mobilizing large constituencies against then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s alleged intention to “divide Jerusalem.” Nearly two decades later, Netanyahu remains committed to old, vacuous slogans about a “united Jerusalem” – a conviction that could, yet again, unravel the Israel-Palestine peace process.

As US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to present a framework agreement for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Netanyahu’s hardline position on Jerusalem is simply a non-starter. In a last-ditch effort to improve the proposal’s chances of success, US President Barack Obama – who has largely avoided taking a proactive role in the peace process during his second term – met with Netanyahu at the White House to urge him to moderate his position.

But changing Netanyahu’s mind will not be easy – not least because of the domestic political pressure that he faces. Since Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, the country’s political class has championed the city as Israel’s “united eternal capital” – a vision that they remain unwilling to abandon.

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