Top US officials met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday in an
effort to jump-start the stalled peace talks, as EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton prepared to visit the region.
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The Americans are working
on a formula that would restart negotiations and lead to the withdrawal of
Palestinian unilateral moves at the United Nations in September, an Israeli
It’s not clear if the formula will succeed, the official
Acting US Middle East envoy David Hale, along with the White
House’s top Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, met with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and then traveled to Ramallah, where they spoke with Palestinian
Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The American officials are in the
region promoting US President Barack Obama’s initiative to base renewed
negotiations on the June 4, 1967, lines with agreed land swaps.
has rejected the use of those armistice lines as the basis for talks, saying the
borders of a two-state solution should not be predetermined before negotiations
Israel has called for talks to resume without preconditions
regarding borders and settlements, while the Palestinians have insisted that
negotiations can only move forward if Israel first stops Jewish construction in
West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem.
American and European
officials are busy this week working to push both sides to show flexibility in
Despite differences between Israel and the US on certain
aspects of the peace process, Netanyahu told Hale and Ross that his country
preferred to have America mediate any negotiations with the Palestinians, senior
diplomatic sources said.
Ashton is due to arrive in Israel on Friday
after visiting Jordan. She will travel to Egypt on Saturday and return to Israel
on Sunday. Ashton is expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials
while she is here as part a European effort to convince the PA to return to the table.
In the Knesset on Wednesday, visiting
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said he is not opposed to a
declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in
“I never said that I or the European Union opposes a
unilateral declaration,” Buzek said.
“I said that it is better to
negotiate the solution.
It is much better to have a dialogue and
The US and Europe want to prevent Palestinian unilateral
moves at the UN, because although the US would veto such a measure in the
Security Council, the Palestinians could pass a less weighty resolution in the
Israel has therefore focused on gaining the support of
the “moral minority,” which includes many Western countries.
Ministry director-general Rafi Barak held a conference call on Wednesday with
Israeli diplomats to receive an update on their efforts to persuade their host
countries to oppose Palestinian unilateral moves.
A number of European
countries said they would stand with Israel at the UN in September to oppose a
unilaterally declared Palestinian state, including Germany, Italy and the
Netherlands. America and Canada also plan to oppose the move.
underscored this point in its talks with Fayad on Wednesday.
goals will only be achieved through negotiations with Israel, Hale emphasized to
Netanyahu told Maxime Verhagen, the deputy prime minister of the
Netherlands, that unilateral Palestinian statehood would harm the peace
“A one-sided UN resolution could push peace away” and
“strengthen a maximalist Palestinian position,” Netanyahu said, according to an
He warned that it could prevent the kind of flexibility
needed for negotiations. The international community has been very reluctant to
tell the Palestinians what they need to do for peace, the prime minister said at
the meeting with Verhagen in Jerusalem. It is time that the international
community explained to the Palestinians that it must recognize Israel’s
legitimacy as a Jewish state and accept that refugees would be returning only to
a Palestinian state, Netanyahu said.
At the Knesset on Wednesday,
Netanyahu reiterated the six points that Israel believes are necessary for a
“The settlement blocs will remain part of Israel in a
final-status agreement,” Netanyahu told the Knesset in response to a demand by
40 opposition parliamentarians that he address his diplomatic
“Jerusalem will remain Israel’s sovereign, united capital,” he
The Palestinians would have to recognize that Israel is the
national homeland of the Jewish people, and a peace deal would need to meet
Israel’s security requirements, including maintaining an Israeli military
presence in the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu said. The final-status agreement must
end all claims against Israel by the Palestinians, he added.
point, he asked the audience, “What would you do? Do you agree or disagree?”
prompting responses so vocal that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin asked Netanyahu
not to ask questions.
“They don’t seem to understand that you’re asking
rhetorically,” Rivlin said.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni responded to
Netanyahu’s speech by saying that “already in the present, we know that the
prime minister is making a historical mistake.
“We will not forgive a
failed government that continues on its path even when the writing is on the
wall,” Livni said. “If there won’t be negotiations, decisions will be made for
us, and conditions will worsen. If there is no Palestinian state in an agreement
with Israel, it will be founded by the world, in opposition to Israel, and will
hurt our legitimacy.
If there is no diplomatic agreement, Israel will not
be able to maintain its Jewish identity.
Livni said Netanyahu “is giving
the Palestinians the power to define us,” and “bringing Israel back to 1947,
when there was a debate on how Israel should be defined.
not solve the conflict.
Netanyahu just wants to stay in power,” she
added. “Netanyahu will isolate Israel.
Netanyahu is leading Israel into
the abyss. I will not participate in Netanyahu’s manipulative
“History does not remember leaders that do not do anything but
say, ‘I’m right,’ and the public does not forgive them,” Livni said.