Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R).
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
A national unity government strengthens Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
ability to finalize a peace deal with the Palestinians, but he is unlikely to
have the opportunity to wield that power.
This would be true, even in a
scenario in which Tzipi Livni had won the March 27 Kadima leadership
What if she, and not Shaul Mofaz, had concluded a back-room deal
with Netanyahu before dawn on Tuesday? Even that would not have made a
The peace process was frozen before Kadima entered the
coalition and it is likely to remain frozen now that Kadima has partnered with
The issue is not Kadima, or Livni, or Mofaz. Netanyahu first
formed his coalition with the Labor Party in 2009, and the presence of that
left-wing political group also did nothing to affect the peace
Netanyahu and the Likud Party are the only factors that matter
in this regard.
It is true that the prime minister has not endeared
himself to the Palestinians. But then again, they are not overly found of
Mofaz, either. Tzipi Livni was their favored Kadima politician.
growing divide between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships has much more
to do with differences on policy and strategy that the personalities of those in
Likud is the party in power, and it is its diplomatic platform
that the Palestinians have rejected.
Other parties and politicians such
as Kadima and Mofaz could make a difference only if they sway the Likud to
change its platform to one that accepts the pre- 1967 lines as the basis for
negotiations, with some land swaps, as proposed by the Palestinians.
under the new 94-MK national unity government, no party has the power to force
Netanyahu to take this step. The government is too large to cede to threats to
Kadima’s coalition agreement, which it signed on Tuesday,
similarly did little to push the prime minister to amend his diplomatic
At a press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and Mofaz spoke
of the peace process as one of four priorities for the new national unity
But the coalition agreement dealt with it in three
It stated that the two parties agree to work to renew the process
and to advance negotiations with the Palestinians. Both sides agree on
the importance of preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state as
well as defensible borders.
The Likud government has already argued that
the pre- ’67 lines are not defensible.
It is the words in the coalition
agreement and the absence of policy change by which the Palestinians are judging
Kadima and the new government. They seek concrete actions showing Israel is
serious about the peace process. For them, this means acceptance of the ’67
lines as the basis for negotiation and a freeze on settlement
On Tuesday, they called on the new government to take the
necessary steps for peace.
When asked about the peace process at the
press conference, Mofaz spoke of a plan that he has for a twostage peace process
that involves borders and security, but he never mentioned the ’67
Nor is he likely to get a chance anytime soon to present his plan
directly to the Palestinians, because nothing they have seen so far has swayed
them sit down with Netanyahu and his government.
Israel, in turn,
believes that the Palestinians are not ready to seek peace.
government measures intent not through policy, but through process. It believes
that the Palestinians are not serious about peace because they have refused to
sit down to negotiate.
Netanyahu summed it up for one reporter, when he
said that the Palestinian refusal to talk with Israel was the
“The process is not stuck because of us; that is the truth,” he
said. “It is stuck because until the Palestinians have not decided to sit and
negotiate with us.
“I do not know how you advance negotiations, let alone
conclude them, without engaging in them. We are prepared to engage in them at
any time,” he said.