The Arab League may have to make its determination Friday about whether to give
a green light to the Palestinian Authority to continue direct talks with Israel
without any clear declaration from Israel regarding the settlement moratorium
construction issue, senior government officials said Monday.RELATED:Arab League postpones meeting with Abbas on talksPA: US is working on 3-month freeze extension to save talks
the officials, just as the much talked about September 26 expiration of the
settlement construction moratorium passed “without the sky falling,” so too the
Arab League foreign ministers may meet in Libya over the weekend without any
formal Israeli proclamation about a new formula for settlement
The Arab League meeting has been widely considered a
deadline by which the issue must be cleared up, lest the Palestinian Authority
carry out its threat to quit the talks because Israel did not extend the
But these deadlines, one official said, have in the past
proven to be “elastic.” There are always deadlines, but this doesn’t mean that
if some formula is not found by Friday, that’s the end of the story, the
official said, adding that intensive discussions with the Americans were
continuing to take place.
Another official noted that the search for
finding a formula was being negotiated between each side and the Americans – as
was the case during the proximity talks – not directly between the Israelis and
That Israel was not necessarily working according to
the Arab League clock seemed clear Tuesday when Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu convened the “septet,” his forum of senior ministers, where the issue
– at least according to a statement put out by Netanyahu’s office – was not even
According to the statement, the septet discussed “the campaign
of delegitimization that would deny Israel’s right to defend itself,” and was
briefed by Joseph Ciechanover, Israel’s representative on the four-man UN panel
probing the Mava Marmara incident.
“Contrary to various media reports and
in accordance with a statement issued yesterday by the Prime Minister’s Bureau,
the forum did not discuss the efforts being made to enable the continuation of
the peace talks,” the statement read.
The 15-member security cabinet is
scheduled to meet Wednesday, but – like Tuesday’s septet meeting – the current
impasse in the negotiations is not on the agenda.
Netanyahu has, however,
reportedly held private discussions over the last few days with senior
ministers, including each of the septet members, to brief them on the current
status of the efforts to get over the present standstill.
official said that Netanyahu was concerned that if Israel extended the
moratorium, Jerusalem would be seen as having no “red lines,” a bad perception
to foster on the eve of negotiations dealing with much more critical
According to this senior official, the US was putting pressure on
both Israel and the Palestinians to show flexibility, and was also making it
clear to both sides that it was not in either of their best interests for the
negotiations to grind to a halt.
The official said there have been
intensive US diplomatic efforts in recent days to lobby key Arab states, such as
Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, to back a
continuation of the talks.
Another diplomatic official said the
impression that Israel was holding out on extending the moratorium by some two
months to get more “incentives” from the US – beyond various political and
military promises that the Obama Administration was reportedly already willing
to offer Israel – was “mistaken.”
Were Netanyahu to hold a vote on
extending the freeze at Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting, it would almost
certainly be defeated. Out of the security cabinet’s 15 voting members, only
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak would support it. Deputy Prime
Minister Dan Meridor, who would also vote for it, is abroad.
would be opposed by three Israel Beiteinu and two Shas ministers, plus Bennie
Begin, Moshe Ya’alon, Yuval Steinitz, Gideon Sa’ar and Silvan Shalom of Likud,
and Yaakov Neeman, who is unaffiliated.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni
blamed Netanyahu for failing to advance the peace process on Tuesday in an
address at Harvard University.
“The government of Israel wasted two years
by not continuing the negotiations from where we left off,” she said. “Now it
must make decisions to save what is left of the negotiations. The prime minister
knows that Kadima would back him if he makes the right decisions, so he should
make them soon.”