According to an Israeli report, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to proceed with peace talks and is willing to discuss borders. In response, the Palestinians have subsequently refused the offer.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Federica Mogherini, European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, last Wednesday that he was interested in resuming diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The objective, he reportedly said in the closed meeting, is to reach understandings on the borders, including the possibility of land swaps. Under any peace agreement, Israel would maintain blocs of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria – land that the Palestinians are claiming for themselves, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
Quoting an Israeli official who was updated on the details of the meeting, Netanyahu raised the issue with Mogherini in order to clarify exactly where Israel could continue its construction projects with no opposition from the EU or PA.
The report points out that this was the first time that Netanyahu, as prime minister, has agreed to discuss the borders of a Palestinian state.
The prime minister is reportedly hoping to annex areas in Judea and Samaria where there is a large Israeli population in exchange for lands that Israel would cede to Palestinian control.
The Palestinian leadership has stated its refusal to allow Jewish citizens within the borders of a future state on a number of occasions, effectively making it Judenrein, the Nazi term for areas cleansed of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Palestinians dismissed the report as insignificant. Saeb Erekat, the PA top negotiator, said that Netanyahu’s stated commitment to the two-state solution is “nothing new” and that it was an Israeli ploy to legitimize Israeli building in Judea and Samaria.
“If Mr. Netanyahu wants to have meaningful negotiations ending the occupation that began in 1967, he should recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and honor Israel’s obligations, including a halt to settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners,” Erekat stated. Any other position, he said, would render the negotiations irrelevant and meaningless.
Skeptical Responses to Prospects for Peace
Responding on IDF Radio to the report, Member of Knesset Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), former minister of justice, said she does not believe progress will be made under Netanyahu’s leadership – but if they do make an agreement, she added, it would lack proper security arrangements and therefore endanger Israel’s borders. Livni had led the Israeli team in the failed peace negotiations with the Palestinians
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) responded critically to the report, saying that it ran counter the government’s guidelines regarding talks with the Palestinians. “If indeed there is truth in this, it is a dangerous precedent,” he said. “The proposal clearly contradicts the first article of the government’s guidelines – the Jewish people’s indisputable right to a sovereign state in the Land of Israel, its national and historic homeland.”
Ariel added that he “expects all members of the coalition, led by the Prime Minister, to abide by those guidelines.”
Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) posited on IDF Radio that an attempt at diplomatic discussions by the new government was to be expected. “Netanyahu has been stating for years that if there is a true partner who will be willing to end the conflict, [Israel] will negotiate with him on a compromise which will include ceding territory.”
Erdan added, however, that the prospects for meaningful progress were dim. “Are we there? Of course not,” he said, noting that no one, including the EU and Mogherini, “have yet to succeed in bringing [PA head] Mahmoud Abbas to stop his unilateral steps and to bring him to the negotiating table.”
He insisted that “peace will only be achieved around the negotiating table and by bilateral concessions. Unfortunately, the Palestinians are not in that place, and definitely not their leadership.”