Netanyahu serious with flag 311 ap.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Two senior US officials returned to Washington on Wednesday without prying out
of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu his map of a future Palestinian state,
something both the Obama administration and the Palestinians are keen on
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US National Security Council senior Middle East adviser Dan
Shapiro and David Hale, a top adviser to US Middle East envoy George Mitchell,
met Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho in Jerusalem on Monday, and the Palestinian
Authority’s top negotiator Saeb Erekat in Ramallah on Tuesday.
visit followed quickly on the heels of a visit late last week by US President
Barack Obama’s adviser Dennis Ross.
One Israeli official said that while
Netanyahu is not opposed to discussing borders, he is unwilling to do so in a
vacuum “without first having a clear understanding of security issues, and the
character of a future Palestinian state.”
Before discussing a map of a
future state of Palestine, the official said, Netanyahu wants to “first discuss
the security map.”
Netanyahu has said that in any future agreement Israel
would have to retain a security presence on the Jordan River, and – according to
a recent Newsweek story – has told the Palestinians he also wants Israeli troops
stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the security barrier to
protect the country’s “narrow waistline.”
The official said it is
impossible to discuss the contours of a border without first knowing whether a
future Palestinian state “will be demilitarized, and how that will be
It is also necessary first to see whether this state will
recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state and whether it will consider that
an agreement with Israel will put an end to the conflict, “with no more
demands,” the official said.
The prime minister’s position is that
borders cannot be discussed isolated from other issues.
Both US and
Israeli officials said there was unlikely to be much US activity in the area for
the next week, until after New Year’s Day.
In a related development,
Foreign Ministry officials said the apparent willingness of some countries to
upgrade the level of the PA delegation in their countries, a move taken by
Norway last week, and by France, Spain and the US in recent months, was an
effort to give the PA something, even though the diplomatic process was
France and Spain both upgraded the status of the Palestinian
representation in their capitals to mission status over the last three months,
and the US upgraded the PLO’s presence in Washington to “delegation general”
earlier in the year.
The Foreign Ministry, according to one diplomatic
source, is concerned that a number of other European countries will now follow
this move as a way of “winking” toward the Palestinians, even though they will
not recognize a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood along the
While the upgrade of the delegations has no practical
significance – the Palestinians already have full embassies in dozens of
countries around the world – it does have declarative value for the
Palestinians, the diplomatic source said.
Israel has conveyed the message
to capitals abroad that it feels giving the Palestinians a “prize” at this time
sends them the wrong message that they will somehow be able to establish a state
without directly engaging with Israel.