(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu is working on a new diplomatic plan for the party, which will endorse the creation of a "demilitarized Palestinian entity" with contiguity in the West Bank, Netanyahu revealed in an interview with journalist Shalom Yerushalmi published over the weekend in the local Jerusalem weekly Kol Hazman.
Netanyahu, who endorsed the Oslo diplomatic process as prime minister, said he would be ready to support dismantling settlements as part of negotiations with a Palestinian Authority that recognized Israel.
"Until now, we [in the Likud] have only said what we are not willing to give," Netanyahu said in the interview. "Now we will say what we are [willing to give.]"
Netanyahu's spokesman, Ophir Akunis, responded that the Likud leader's plan had not yet been written and that it would "not include a reference to a Palestinian state, a Palestinian entity or a Palestinian anything."
In an effort to take advantage of the turmoil in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu will embark on Wednesday on a series of visits to cities that would become confrontation line communities should Prime Minister Ehud Olmert succeed in implementing his West Bank realignment plan. Netanyahu will visit Kfar Saba on Wednesday and Hadera and Rosh Ha'ayin in upcoming weeks.
Netanyahu accused Olmert of leading the country astray at a meeting of the leadership of the Likud's ideological bureau at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters on Sunday. He said the nation was starting to realize that disengagement was a mistake and that the Likud was right on diplomatic and socio-economic issues.
"I do not think Israel should go back to Ramallah and control the Palestinians," Netanyahu told the bureau leadership. "I don't favor the formation of a Palestinian state. A Palestinian state is a danger to Israel."
Netanyahu's rival for the Likud leadership, MK Silvan Shalom, blamed the Likud's downfall from 40 Knesset seats to 12 on Netanyahu for being too extreme and for not having clear enough policies.
The only MK who spoke in favor of a Palestinian state in the meeting was the chairman of the bureau, MK Dan Naveh. He also said he opposed merging the Likud with parties on the Right.
"The Likud must present a balanced, responsible and sane diplomatic plan to return to the leadership of the country," Naveh said. "The Likud must not drag behind the extreme Right. Against the Leftist policy of seeking a withdrawal to 1967 lines and Kadima's policy of seeking a unilateral withdrawal, the Likud's policies should favor an agreement with concessions that will bring Israel defensible borders."
Meanwhile, in Kadima, sources close to Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit confirmed a report on Sunday that he has begun preparations for challenging Olmert for the leadership of Kadima. Sheetrit told Kadima activists to register as many of his loyalists as possible before the Kadima membership drive is set to end in January.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post
last week, Sheetrit said that realignment was a bad idea and that if Israel were to give West Bank land to the Palestinians for nothing in return, the land would be used to attack the center of Israel.