'PM mistaken that Hamas-Fatah unity is game-changer'

This week's 20 Questions hosts Tovah Lazaroff, JPost correspondent recently returned from Europe with Netanyahu. She tells of her experiences and her views on upcoming Congress speeches.

May 13, 2011 00:26
2 minute read.
20 questions

20 questions 58. (photo credit: courtsey)


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This week’s 20 Questions hosts Tovah Lazaroff, a senior correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.

'France, Britain may recognize Palestinian state'

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Lazaroff recently returned from a trip to Europe with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. When we asked what it was like traveling with the premier, Lazaroff admitted that as an ardent fan of the US television show The West Wing, her expectations may have been slightly exaggerated.

Nevertheless, Lazaroff says it was an adventure, and driving through the streets of Paris in the PM’s motorcade was an experience that she won’t easily forget.

With regards to the purpose of the trip, Lazaroff says that the PM’s primary goal was to “target” French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Britain and France hold 2 out of 5 votes in the United Nations Security Council which may call for the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in September.

When asked if she herself believes that such a declaration will be made, Lazaroff asserts that prior to the recent Hamas-Fatah unity deal, the Palestinians had a clear path to a unilateral state. Even though in light of this a unilateral declaration seems less likely than it was, there is a tremendous desire from the international community to give the Palestinians their own state.

Lazaroff believes that the US is still a strong partner for Israel. While American politicians have been halting funds to the Palestinians since the unity deal, the Europeans on the other and, have been transferring them.

We asked Lazaroff what she thinks will be said in the upcoming Congress speeches. She predicts that US President Barack Obama will limit himself to simply outlining the principles we’ve heard before: for the two sides to negotiate an agreement, for Israel to stop construction in the settlements and for the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s security concerns.

Insofar as Netanyahu’s much anticipated speech on May 24, media pundits have been speculating that as a result of the unity deal the speech will not be a “Bar Ilan II” – i.e. Netanyahu will not propose a new deal for peace. Lazaroff postulates that the reason for this is that the PM, along with the rest of Israel, believes that the unity deal was a game changer. This, she says, is a critical mistake.

For the international community, the deal hasn’t changed anything, and Netanyahu must keep that in mind when he speaks to Congress. His central argument thus far has been that the Palestinians are trying to separate Palestinian statehood from peace, but that can no longer suffice on its own.

Lazaroff opines that the PM will be ill-advised to simply leave it at that and must offer an alternative. In her words, “You can’t stand in Washington and say ‘don’t do this’ without also saying ‘do that instead.’”

Lazaroff postulates that from Hamas’ perspective, their recent announcement stating that they will accept a state on 1967 lines (as opposed to all of Israel) is already concession enough. With this in mind, she doesn’t see much chance of land swaps occurring, despite Israel’s expectations.

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