PM: Israel, US working on document regarding 1967 lines

Netanyahu tells Knesset committee release of Palmer report on 'Mavi Marmara' will put Israel in a "better place."

netanyahu knesset_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
netanyahu knesset_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel and the US were working on a document saying the parameters for returning to negotiations with the Palestinians would be based on the speech US President Barack Obama gave at AIPAC in May, and spelling out in greater detail what Obama meant by saying that an agreement should be based on a return to the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps.
Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “we are interacting with the US to put together a document [for an agreement with the Palestinians] using language from Obama’s second speech [the AIPAC speech].”
This speech explained in greater detail what Obama had said three days earlier at the State Department. That speech raised Netanyahu’s ire because it called for an agreement based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps.
To the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, however, Obama explained more fully what he had in mind.
What he meant, Obama had said, was that the parties themselves “will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation.
It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.
“The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
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Even though Israel and the US were working on this document, Netanyahu expressed pessimism about returning to talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he seems to be determined to bring Palestinian statehood recognition to a UN vote in September.
“Abbas made a strategic decision to go to the UN, because the price for him will be low,” Netanyahu said.
Israel was “working to ensure a US veto in the UN Security Council, but that will not prevent a majority in the General Assembly,” Netanyahu said.
“Unilateral steps [by the Palestinians] will distance peace, not bring it closer,” he said.
Israel was working with the Quartet to draw up parameters for talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said. The coordination with Washington was better than expected, and Israel would not pay an outrageous price to start the talks.
This coordination was manifest in the basic agreement that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, that Hamas cannot be a partner in the negotiations and that the final borders will be different from the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967, he said.
“The Israeli goal is direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without preconditions,” he said. “There have been attempts to find a way to start talks, but it does not seem to have great chances.
“I am prepared to meet Abbas at any moment – even tonight,” Netanyahu said.
“However, this will not happen, because the Palestinians want to go to the UN no matter what, and declare a state without making compromises.”
Israel was a real partner for peace, having Israel proved its willingness to negotiate by freezing construction in settlements and taking down checkpoints, the prime minister said.
“No one can say the Israeli side did not show willingness to negotiate, as opposed to the Palestinians, who have never been willing to compromise, even in the time of Oslo,” Netanyahu said.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni told Netanyahu that “instead of blaming the whole world, you should look in the mirror.
“Your historical mistake of not listening to me, and stopping negotiations after the [February 2009] elections led to a colossal diplomatic failure that harms Israel’s security interests – this is happening because of you,” Livni said.
“You are harming our strategic relationship with the US in order to get applause in Israel.
You are isolating Israel and the US. Because of you, a Palestinian state will be declared without an agreement, and it is happening on your watch.”
Netanyahu responded that “deep relationships have many layers,” and said that Livni’s view on the situation is very narrow.
“US support for Israel crosses governments and parties. The roots of their support is very deep,” he said.
The prime minister also discussed Turkey, saying the government was examining whether or not to apologize over last year’s Mavi Marmara raid. He said there were a number of factors to take into consideration, including bilateral relations with Turkey, Israel’s relations in the region, its relationship with the US and the country’s commitment to its soldiers.
Washington has been actively pressing both Israel and Turkey to find a formula that ends the incident and allows for a return to friendly ties.
An apology would protect Israeli soldiers, but would not prevent lawsuits from Turkish citizens, Netanyahu said.
“I expressed sorrow at the lives lost, but it is important to say the soldiers acted in self-defense,” he said. He did not say whether he thought Israel should apologize, but only that there were many things to take into consideration.
Netanyahu was upbeat about the UN’s Palmer Committee, which is scheduled to release its findings on August 20, saying that it will put Israel in a better place. He said the report, which has been written but not released, is important because it upholds the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, and also because it says the implementation of the blockade was also legal.