As Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State John Kerry push for a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian talks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to publicly focus on regional threats rather than possible negotiations.
Netanyahu stressed the need for US-Israeli cooperation in facing radical Islam when he spoke Monday before a private meeting in Jerusalem with visiting US congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Gregory Meeks (D-New York).
“We are closely following the situation on the Golan Heights, where al-Nusra terrorists kidnapped UN observers,” Netanyahu said. “I think that the UN would do itself a great favor if instead of automatically attacking Israel, it would turn its attention, and its investigation committees, toward the terrorists who are trampling the values and norms upon which the UN was founded.”
Al-Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, which “violate all norms of international behavior and trample them in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza,” were all cut from the same cloth, Netanyahu said.
A joint effort by the civilized countries of the world was needed against this threat, he added.
In his comments, Netanyahu made no mention of where he was headed on the Palestinian track.
Livni, however, said in an Israel Radio interview that the challenges should induce Israel to begin negotiations anew with moderate elements in the Palestinian camp.
“When I hear about the challenges and the threats in the region, the way for us to deal with them is by creating a front with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – the same states that the crazy beheaders in the region also threaten,” she said.
But, she added, “they can cooperate with us only if there is a situation where there is the minimum of a [diplomatic] process – negotiations with the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority.”
Livni said it was impossible to talk about “threats without presenting a solution, and the solution is not only to move money from social welfare to the defense budget, but in the long-term it is to initiate something, and to initiate correctly against terrorism, and with the moderates.”
In a related development, Arab media outlets reported Monday that US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Netanyahu about the possibility of restarting peace talks and – as an Israeli goodwill measure – the release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners who were scheduled to have been freed in April had the negotiations at the time not broken down.
According to a report in the London- based Al-Quds al-Arabi, Netanyahu did not respond positively to the idea and therefore Kerry told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he was canceling a planned visit to the region next week.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the report. But an Israeli official said Netanyahu was “ready to negotiate peace with a Palestinian government that is committed to peace, committed to fighting terrorism and committed to implementing its obligations.”
Abbas is expected to present the US with his own diplomatic initiative as early as this week. It includes giving Israel and the US four months to present their ideas for future borders. Should that process fall apart, he would take the matter to the UN Security Council with a demand that a timeline be established for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. If that fails, he would ask the International Criminal Court to hold Israel responsible for alleged war crimes.
An Israeli official said that this kind of initiative did not help the peace process.
“We want to move forward in peace,” the official said. “We hope that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will be a partner in that process. But he has to make a choice. Will he go for a serious peace process or will we return to the sort of games that we saw over the last year, where he goes to the UN and acts unilaterally, where he embraces Hamas and where he does not negotiate seriously?”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.