PM Netanyahu with US President Obama at White House 311.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
WASHINGTON – After laying out a vision for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the White House is now hoping Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will decide to accept that framework for negotiations, a senior US official told Jewish leaders Friday.
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The message seems to place the onus on Israel for moving forward with an overture toward the Palestinians, which the US would like to see as part of its effort to create momentum in the peace process that would convince the Palestinians not to seek a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN this September.
Steve Simon, senior National Security Council advisor on the Middle East, held a conference call with Jewish leaders on Friday in which he said that the Palestinians had indicated that they would move forward
with talks on the basis of Obama’s plan if Israel agreed to as well and that the US was now waiting for Israel’s answer, according to participants on the off-the-record call.
They said Simon also noted that the US was reasonably confident the Palestinians would abandon their effort to go to the UN in the case of such a scenario.
Simon pointed out that though the Palestinians have mentioned their intention of approaching the UN General Assembly for a vote on a declaration of statehood when it opens in September, the UN requirement that parties file in July for the GA opening meant that there was only a month to come up with an alternative.
He also described split opinion within the Palestinian camp over the wisdom of proceeding, and suggested that the Palestinians were looking for ways to avoid a UN showdown.
US President Barack Obama detailed a basis for a Palestinian state as a framework for negotiations in a Middle East policy address last month aimed in part at spurring on talks. But his outline, particularly that the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps serve as the basis for a Palestinian state, troubled Netanyahu, who quickly pushed back against the idea.
Simon also told the leaders that the US was working with Israel to
devise a response to the mass protests being threatened by Palestinians
on the borders of Israel and coming from the West Bank, since both
countries would like to see such a trend stopped. He praised the
Palestinian security services for working effectively with Israel to
stem such protests in recent weeks.
A National Security Council spokesman declined to confirm Simon’s
remarks, noting that he was speaking during an off-the-record call.
The conference call occurred on the same day the White House hosted a
meeting with Jewish leaders on how to secure Jewish facilities from
terrorism and respond to other threats as part of homeland security
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met with the Jewish
groups Friday as part of the expansion of the program “If You See
Something, Say Something,” which has already been launched in cities,
states and public facilities across the country.
“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and our nation’s
faith-based organizations play a critical role in keeping our
communities safe,” said Secretary Napolitano in a statement released
after the meeting. “Expanding the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’
campaign to national Jewish groups, the first faith-based partnership
for the campaign, is an important step in the Department’s ongoing
effort to engage the American public in our nation’s security efforts.”