Politics: The opposition leader’s peace plan
Ahead of PM meeting with Palestinian counterpart, Kadima leader Mofaz presents himself as an alternative.
Shaul Mofaz Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
When Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz called a press conference in November 2009 to
announce details of his new diplomatic plan for peace with the Palestinians, the
Hebrew media ignored the plan’s content and focused only on his willingness to
negotiate with Hamas.
The press disregarded the fact that Mofaz had
conditioned talking to Hamas on the terrorist organization changing its spots
and accepting the Quartet's conditions of renouncing violence, accepting past
agreements with Israel and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Instead, they
scandalized the former IDF chief of staff's willingness to talk to those he had
When Mofaz tried to present his plan to the Kadima
faction in the Knesset, then-party leader Tzipi Livni prevented him from saying
anything, interrupting him constantly with the word “nifla”
Fast-forward two-and-a-half years. Mofaz is now the head of
Kadima, the leader of the opposition, and one of Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s main political challengers, making what he says in an interview with
The Jerusalem Post more relevant than ever before.
The timing of the
interview is also significant, coming days before a key meeting between
Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Unlike
interviews with the Hebrew media that he has given since his March 27 election,
here Mofaz focuses on diplomatic issues and not the socioeconomic matters his
political strategists have told him to talk about.
Mofaz attempts in the
following interview to present a credible alternative to Netanyahu on diplomatic
issues – in a message intended not just for potential voters in Israel but also
for the Palestinians and for the White House. He speaks positively about US
President Barack Obama on the Palestinian issue, criticizes him on Iran, makes
his first-ever statement about Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard and reaches out to
Which side is to blame for the current diplomatic stalemate:
Netanyahu, as your predecessor Livni repeatedly suggested, or the Palestinians?
Both sides are to blame. Unfortunately, over the past three years, the current
Israeli government has not taken steps to advance negotiations. It was a huge
mistake of the government of Israel to not accept Obama’s plan [that he
presented at the State Department last May].
The negotiations are stuck
because of the lack of trust between the two leaders. As prime minister I could
An agreement with the Palestinians is in our clear interests
because it will guarantee that Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state.
Israel and the PA should accept the quartet statement [released Wednesday] and
advance negotiations. Time is not on either side.
danger for Israel is not the Iranian threat but Israel becoming a bi-national
state. Losing the Jewish majority endangers Israel more than anything. I will
not let it happen.
Why is your plan, which calls for a two-stage
withdrawal from 60 percent of the West Bank and then from 100 percent via land
swaps, the answer?
An agreement cannot be reached in one step, so it is important to have an
interim agreement to build trust, give the Palestinians a state and guarantee
Israeli security along the way to a permanent agreement. Then, in a year, we can
reach agreements on borders and security because the gaps are not wide.
would guarantee the Palestinians territory the same size of the pre-1967 West
Bank and Gaza Strip with land swaps. In any agreement, we will keep the
settlement blocs. They will be part of Israel as our eastern border.
very pragmatic and ready for historic concessions but I will insist on security
arrangements. The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and will not
have an army that can threaten Israel. It can have security forces to defend
their people. But no air force, tanks or missiles that can threaten us. I
You presented your plan in 2009. The region has
changed a lot since then. Do you still advocate implementing stage one now?
Especially now. The dramatic changes in our region require us to set our
strategic goals for ourselves: Strengthening our peace agreements with Egypt and
Jordan and reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.
How do you get to
60% and then 100%?
In the interim agreement, we will give them Areas A and B,
which make up some 40% of the West Bank, plus another 20% from area C to make
the land contiguous from Jenin to Hebron with 99.8% of Palestinians inside and
without evacuating settlements. After the land swaps, my settlement blocs will
enable 250,000 Jews to stay. We will keep Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion.
The Jordan Valley can be leased for 25 years, and Hebron’s Jews can stay as a
Giving the Palestinians 100% via land swaps sounds like
former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s plan. Have you endorsed it?
No. He wanted to
already make decisions on Jerusalem, refugees, water and electromagnetic
fields. The Olmert plan could not have worked.
Why do you think
Israel should have accepted Obama;s plan, which was seen as very controversial?
Obama’s idea of deciding borders and security first, and Jerusalem and refugees
later, was part of my plan. I presented it to his advisers Dennis Ross, Jeffrey
Feltman and Dan Shapiro in 2009. I do not say he adopted my plan in its
entirety. But as prime minister, I will persuade Obama to accept my entire
If borders are decided before the refugee issue, and Israel already
made its concessions in the West Bank, why would the Palestinians have an
interest in conceding on refugees?
The refugees are a clear red line for me. Not
a single Palestinian refugee will go into Israel’s final borders. In
negotiations, you start with terms of reference before stage one. That is when
we will be clear that there is no compromise on refugees. Reaching an interim
agreement will build trust for the final status agreement, create a new
atmosphere with the Palestinians and Arab states, and dramatically improve
economic ties with them.
But can it be reached with the current
Palestinian leadership, or should we wait for the Palestinian election that has
been delayed so many times?
For my plan, the world will be a partner and the
Palestinians will not have a choice. I have gotten support from world leaders
and I have met with senior Palestinian officials who have called the plan
pragmatic and rational but cannot say so publicly. Any Palestinian leader
elected who accepts the Quartet conditions can be a partner.
Do you see
yourself as leader of what was called the peace camp? Would you expect to be the
main speaker at Yitzhak Rabin memorial rallies? What do you think about former
Meretz leader Yossi Beilin’s calls for dismantling the PA?
I am the head of the
pragmatic camp that wants to reach peace, fix our electoral system, make
sweeping socioeconomic changes and equalize burdens of IDF service. I am against
the Geneva initiative and I disagree with Beilin’s ideas that would lead to a
bi-national state, which is the worst thing possible for Israel. If they invite
me to speak at Rabin rallies, I will.
You praise Obama’s diplomatic
initiatives on the Palestinian issue. Do you also agree with his handling of
I believe the Obama administration is committed to stopping the Iranian
nuclear program. But I do not endorse [Obama’s idea this week] to allow Iran to
have a civilian nuclear program. It would be too hard to monitor. Iran
has military ambitions and abilities, so we cannot close our eyes. Allowing Iran
to obtain a even nuclear capability would change the balance of power in the
Middle East. America realizes why Israel cannot accept this.
Netanyahu handled the Iran issue smartly?
His government has made progress. But
it should not have dealt with the issue so publicly and spoken about it in such
an operative way. The world will take steps to prevent a nuclear
Iran. Now is the time to advance sanctions to stop the program. I am also
in favor of regime change in Iran, but preventing nuclearization must be the top
If sanctions and all other nonmilitary options fail, could you
order the bombing of Iran, the country where you were born and your childhood
There is no connection. The military option is the last option and Israel
must be ready for it. This is not the time yet. There is time for
sanctions and for the world to do its part on Iran. If we see Iran getting
closer to a military nuclear capability, the US acting against its own interest
and allowing a sword on our neck, I will be the first to support Israel taking
action. On this there would be no coalition and opposition. But the sword is not
Do you think Obama will release Jonathan Pollard from prison?
Time will tell. The time has come to release him. He no longer poses any danger
to American security. His fate should not be connected to the US election. He
should be released for humanitarian, reasons and because he paid his debt to the
legal system in America.
The time has come to put this issue behind
Do you see Livni staying in politics with so many key issues up in
That is her decision. I have said that her place is in Kadima but that
everyone has a replacement. The election results were clear. The
party will be run differently now.
If you get elected prime minister,
would you also see yourself as the leader of world Jewry?
Any prime minister
must see all of world Jewry as part of us, take responsibility for all of them
and maintain connections with them. Their connection to the land of Israel is
deep and nothing can change that.
I spoke at last year's Jewish
Federations of North America general assembly in Denver and I was very impressed
by the commitment of American Jewish leaders to Israel’s future. They are the
flesh of our flesh. Israel is the home of all the Jews in the US and the world.