With the Palestinians set to seek recognition of statehood at the UN in just a
number of weeks, Israel said Tuesday it would be willing to accept the 1967
lines as a framework for talks as part of a package in which the Palestinians
would recognize Jewish state.
Israeli officials said this framework would
be a package deal whereby Israel would agree to entering negotiations using the
1967 lines, with mutually agreed upon swaps, as the baseline of talks; and the
Palestinians would agree that the final goal of negotiations would be two
states, a Palestinian one and Jewish one.
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Israel raised the formula as officials from both parties, the US, EU and Russia
are continuing to work on a document to provide a framework for a return to
negotiations that could make a Palestinian bid at the UN
According to this formulation, one official explained, each
side would get something: The Palestinians would get the 1967 lines as the
baseline, something they have long sought; and Israel would get Palestinian
recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel, according to the
official, has made clear that it would agree to language in the framework that
would reflect the ideas of US President Barak Obama’s two speeches on the Middle
East in May in which he first used the 1967 lines, with swaps, as a baseline for
a return to talks.
Jerusalem, while not endorsing the 1967 lines, would
agree to language that would say that Israel recognizes that this is the
position of the international community. The willingness to show this degree of
flexibility, the official said, would be contingent on the Palestinians
demonstrating flexibility of their own and endorsing language nodding at
recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The Palestinians have so far
opposed the insertion of this type of language inside the formula, saying they
would return to talks only if Israel agreed to enter them with the pre-1967
lines as the baseline, and after freezing all construction in the
An additional issue is whether the Obama speech that would
serve as the basis of the talks would be his speech at the State Department,
with language that is more pleasing to the Palestinians; or his speech days
later at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which had additional
nuances sought by Israel.
From the American perspective, both speeches
needed to be considered as inextricably linked.
“President Obama has
outlined principles and goals for these negotiations in his historic remarks. We
are working with the parties and the Quartet to encourage direct negotiations on
that basis,” said a State Department spokesman, specifying he was referring to
“Both those remarks – you can’t take one and not the
other. They’re both the same message and the same thing,” he said. “The idea
that those remarks go together is important.”
The Europeans, however, are
understood to be pushing for language that would be closer to the State
Department speech, as they want to be more assured of Palestinian support for
any statement they would back.
Tony Blair, envoy to the Quartet of the
US, EU, UN and Russia, is handling coordination in an attempt to find a workable
text. The major sticking points are seen as the size of the swaps envisioned,
the issue of Israel as a Jewish state and how strong the language would be on
rejecting a Hamas role in a Palestinian national unity government.
package framework was brought to the Quartet at a meeting in Washington in
mid-July, but the Quartet itself could not agree on it, with Russia reportedly
balking at the need to include the Jewish state element into the
“In the wake of the Quartet meeting last month, there were still
gaps between the parties about whether there was a common basis to resume
negotiations,” noted David Makovsy of the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy. “I think the gaps have been narrowed, but they haven’t been closed. If
past performance is an indication, odds are the Europeans are going to seek
Palestinian support before agreeing to close those gaps.”
continued: “This is a key moment because having terms of reference for peace
talks may be the best way to avert a confrontation in September, and this seems
to have motivated Israel at least in part to search for a common
He characterized the Israelis as having come “a considerable
distance” on moving towards the principles outlined by Obama as a basis for
Makovsky also pointed out that this episode was the first in which
the Quartet had inserted itself into negotiations, which he described as “a
reflection that the Europeans are considered pivotal voters at the UN in
Government officials said that since the July Quartet meeting
there have also been signals that the Palestinians themselves were looking for
ways to come off the UN statehood recognition tree, with PA Prime Minister Salam
Fayyad and other senior Fatah members saying as much recently.
ago, Nabil Amr, a member of the PLO Central Council and a former PA minister,
said the PA leadership had climbed a very high tree with its UN
“The leadership does not have any guarantees that it would be
able to climb down safely from the tree,” he said, calling on the PA to delay
the statehood declaration by another year.
Though Netanyahu told the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he believed Abbas
had made a strategic decision to go to the UN on the statehood issue no matter
what, there is a feeling in Jerusalem that others in the Palestinian hierarchy
are not as set on this path.