Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will take any accord he reaches with the Palestinian Authority to the Knesset and then to the people, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday night.
The official said Netanyahu believes that if he reached an agreement with the PA that brings peace and protects Israel’s national security interests, it would enjoy wide public support.
Negotiations under false pretenses
The audacity of
not losing hope
The official would not elaborate on whether “bringing the accord to the people” meant a referendum or early elections.
official’s comments came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton announced that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians
were set to commence at the beginning of September. She said that the US
believed these negotiations, aimed at resolving all final status
issues, “can be completed within a year.” Clinton said she had invited
Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington on September 2 to
meet and relaunch the direct negotiations.
She acknowledged that the goal would be a challenging one.
a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” she said. “The enemies of peace
will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the
parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult
times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in
Netanyahu and Abbas are expected to first meet
separately with US President Barack Obama on September 1, when Obama
will also hold bilateral meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan and
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, topped off by a dinner for all five
leaders that night.
Clinton, who will preside over the trilateral
meeting the next day, said that the negotiations themselves would start
with no preconditions.
They are due to be held in various places to be worked out, including in the region.
has said on a number of occasions that he would be willing to meet
anywhere, including in Ramallah. This raised expectations of the
likelihood that at some point the talks would alternate between
Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israeli officials said.
negotiations should take place without preconditions and be
characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success,” Clinton
Israel has insisted that there not be conditions to the
talks; this has held up the Palestinians’ participation as the latter
have made demands ranging from a total settlement freeze, by which they
also mean building over the Green Line in Jerusalem, to the talks
starting from where they broke off under prime minister Ehud Olmert, to
Israel’s agreeing to using the pre- 1967 borders as the basis of
Though none of these demands were met, by Clinton’s
characterization, the Palestinians did get the short time-frame they
have long sought.
Though Netanyahu has said that talks could
conclude quickly, Israel has resisted any deadlines on the process. The
Palestinians, however, don’t want to see an open-ended interim situation
and have long pressed for a brief negotiating period.
officials pointed out that it was Netanyahu who, during his trip to the
US last month, said that it would be possible to reach an agreement
within a year.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who spoke to
reporters following Clinton’s announcement, declined – when pressed –
to describe the one-year timeline as a deadline.
Asked whether it was a deadline, Mitchell responded, “We believe it can be done within a year, and that is our objective.”
also said that the terms of reference would be sorted out by the
participating parties, despite Palestinian desires that there be firm
terms of reference before the talks start.
“Only the parties can
determine the terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they
will do so when they meet and discuss these matters,” Mitchell said,
indicating that it applied to the sequencing of final status issues as
well. “All permanent status issues will be on the table. It will be for
the parties themselves to decide the manner by which they should be
Mitchell did, however, say that the US would be ready to provide bridging proposals if necessary.
will be active and sustained partners,” he said. “As necessary and
appropriate, we will offer bridging proposals. But I repeat: This is a
direct bilateral negotiation between the parties with our assistance and
with the assistance of our friends and allies.”
Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia, however, issued a statement on
Friday that included some of the framework sought by the Palestinians.
endorsing direct talks, the Quartet expressed support for “the pursuit
of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace as envisaged in the
Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab
Those documents are filled with configurations
that Israel has objected to. While Jerusalem embraced Clinton’s
announcement, it has remained silent on the Quartet statement, with
which it has reservations.
Instead, the response of the Prime Minister’s Office only mentioned the US invitation for direct talks.
prime minister has been calling for direct negotiations for the past
year and a half,” said a statement released by the Prime Minister’s
Office on Friday afternoon.
“He expressed satisfaction with the
American clarification that the talks would be without preconditions,
and added that Israel wants the talks to be serious and comprehensive.”
the Israeli negotiation team has not yet been announced, it is expected
to be led by Yitzhak Molcho, who has been Netanyahu’s point-man on the
Palestinian issue since Netanyahu took over as prime minister last year.
however, has said in private meetings that he intends to personally
conduct the negotiations with Abbas, and that he believed it was
necessary for him and Abbas to agree on the principles regarding the
core issues, and then pass those issues on to the negotiating teams to
work out the details.
The negotiations are expected to be held far from the media, with the likelihood that there will also be secret channels.
official responded to skepticism that the coalition, in its current
configuration that includes Israel Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi, could
sign an agreement with the Palestinians by saying that with this
coalition, Netanyahu announced his acceptance of a two-state solution
during his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009: the government announced its
10-month settlement construction moratorium last November; and the IDF
removed more roadblocks and barriers in the West Bank than it had under
any previous government.