In Jerusalem’s post mortem evaluations of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
stormy visit to Washington, questions were raised about the wisdom of the US
trying to prevent European support of a Palestinian state at the UN by first
setting a return to the 1967 lines, with mutual land swaps, as the negotiation
White House advisor defends Obama peace talks stance
Israeli leftists urge Europe to recognize Palestinian state
White House officials have said that one of the reasons why
President Barack Obama unveiled this as the new US position in his May 19 speech
on the Middle East was to better be able to convince the Europeans that there
was no need to support a Palestinian state.
But, according to various
assessments in Jerusalem, it would have been more effective had the US first
received European agreement not to support the Palestinian Authority move in the
UN, and then make the statement about the 1967 lines, rather than the other way
The way it stands now, the 1967 language is out there, and there
is no certainty the Europeans will support the US position against a Palestinian
state at the UN.
Following the visit, there is a strong sense in
Jerusalem that much better coordination is needed with the US at the highest
levels. Jerusalem was only made aware that Obama was going to make his remark
about the 1967 lines the night before he delivered his speech. US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton then called Netanyahu the next day, and heard a furious
reaction from the prime minister.
There still remained much speculation
in Jerusalem as to why the US sprung the 1967 language on Israel, with one
assessment being that Washington did not believe it would be possible to
coordinate strategy with Israel on this matter.
According to this line of
reasoning, since Washington believed Israel would simply not accept this, and
did not believe there was any language that Netanyahu could accept, they
concluded there was no other choice than to unilaterally make the
In this assessment, the US did not foresee Netanyahu’s
strong and public opposition.
Following the visit, the focus of
diplomatic activity is expected to be on coming up with a coordinated strategy
with the US to avoid the possible repercussions of a Palestinian initiative at
the UN in September. This is based on the widespread assumption that there is no
way PA President Mahmoud Abbas will return to negotiations.
The idea is
to examine whether it is possible to articulate a vision of a future agreement
that has elements in it that are important both for Israel and for the
Palestinians, and that would receive widespread European support and convince
the Europeans not to back Palestinian statehood at the UN.
meanwhile, told the cabinet on Sunday that his visit to the US and his speech to
Congress showed that Israel has friends in the world.
“They tell us all
the time how we do not have any friends,” Netanyahu said.
friends. The American people are a great and strong friend of Israel. There are
some who do not understand the strength of this connection.
of that support is an important asset for Israel,” he said.
“I think that
it is also important that the world sees this,” he said. “It is very important
that the world see this; governments see it and leaders as
Netanyahu, alluding to Canada’s stand at the G8 meeting in France
that led to a softening of a resolution over the weekend on the
Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, said that “on various continents, in
various meetings,” matters that were not desirable for Israel were
Netanyahu said he laid out in the US the principles most
important to Israel: the demand to recognize the Jewish state; that an agreement
will be the end of the conflict; that there be no return to the 1967 lines; that
Jerusalem remain united; that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside
of Israel’s borders; that there be no acceptance of Hamas; and that any solution
be achieved through negotiations.
“The public backing in the US for these
basic principles is essential,” he said. “We are prepared to be very generous
with our neighbors, but we are not prepared to concede on the most basic issues
that ensure our existence, including our security and our future as a Jewish
President Shimon Peres, meanwhile, is scheduled to travel to
Italy on Wednesday to take part in celebrations marking 150 years since Italy’s
unification, a ceremony that will be attended by numerous world leaders,
Sources in the President’s Office said they knew of no
plans for Peres to meet with Abbas, or with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who
will also be there.
Speculation of a meeting with Abbas follows reports
that Peres and Abbas met secretly in London recently to try and find
a formula to renew talks.
According to a Ma’ariv
report on Sunday,
Netanyahu was – according to the agreement hammered out between Peres and Abbas
– to grant the Palestinians a significant concession in his speech to Congress,
but changed his mind following the Hamas- Fatah reconciliation.
Minister’s Office would only say in response to the report of a Peres-Abbas
channel that there was “close coordination” between the prime minister and the
president on diplomatic matters.
A spokesman for Peres declined to
comment on the reports.