Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said that the cabinet's response to the Quartet initiative for restarting peace talks "must take a positive direction," but expressed two reservations to the proposal in an interview with Army Radio Wednesday.
"There are two problematic items," Shalom said of demands found within the Quartet initiative. "The first is that everything needs to be done within a year."
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The second, he said, is that " the need to reach agreements on borders and security within three months - something that is impossible to do without knowing what happens with all the other issues, primarily the right of return and Jerusalem."
On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the inner cabinet of eight
ministers to discuss the Quartet’s proposal, amid wide expectations
that Israel would formally accept the proposal.
After a five-hour long meeting the ministers said that they supported the proposal but did not come to an official conclusion that it would be approved.
over the weekend in New York that he viewed the Quartet proposal
favorably, but would wait to issue a formal response until he met with
his senior ministers.
Even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, representing the right
flank in the inner cabinet, said this week that while he had
reservations about the Quartet statement, “the fact that it calls for
negotiations without preconditions is a great achievement for Israel.”
Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speeches to the UN on
Friday, during which Abbas said he was filing a request to the Security
Council for full UN membership for “Palestine,” the Quartet issued a
formula for renewing talks.
The statement urged the parties “to
overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.” It
proposed a “preparatory meeting” between the parties within a month to
agree to an agenda and “method of proceeding in the negotiation,” and
suggested that the two sides commit to the objective of reaching an
agreement “within a time frame agreed to by the parties but not longer
than the end of 2012.”
The statement also said the expectation is
that the parties will come up with a comprehensive proposal on
territory and security within three months, and to have made
“substantial progress” within six months. To facilitate this, an
international conference will be held in Moscow “at the appropriate
Government sources said Netanyahu was convening his senior ministers to
discuss the proposal soon after his return from New York on Monday,
because there was a “diplomatic benefit” to being the first to respond
positively, and thereby placing the onus on the other side.
Netanyahu has in the past objected to the idea – as presented in the
Quartet proposal – of isolating security and territories from the other
core issues of Jerusalem and refugees, saying that if an agreement on
the territorial issue was reached, the Palestinians would have no
incentive to compromise later on the issues of refugees and Jerusalem.
Rather, his position in the past was that all issues should be discussed
Asked in Tuesday’s Rosh Hashana interview
with The Jerusalem Post
his initial positive response to the Quartet formula represented a
change in his position, the prime minister replied, “This isn’t an
attempt to isolate those two issues. For us, security is intertwined
with the end of the conflict, with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish
state, and obviously with other issues of territories, boundaries and
so forth. There are many ways to approach this, but at the end of the
day you are going to have to have a comprehensive solution to this
problem, because it is a comprehensive problem.”
Netanyahu said there was a long-standing agreement in the negotiation
process that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” and he
didn’t see that principle changing.
The Palestinians have not yet formally responded to the Quartet formula,
but in contrast to Israel, their initial responses were negative
because the formula said nothing explicitly about a settlement
construction freeze, or about starting the negotiations with the
pre-1967 lines as the baseline for the talks.
In addition to Netanyahu and Lieberman, the other members of the inner
cabinet are Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe
Ya’alon, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor and
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin.