Analysis: Kadima-add unlikely to thaw peace process

National unity strengthens PM’s ability to finalize a peace deal but he is unlikely to have the opportunity to wield that power.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
A national unity government strengthens Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ability to finalize a peace deal with the Palestinians, but he is unlikely to have the opportunity to wield that power.
This would be true, even in a scenario in which Tzipi Livni had won the March 27 Kadima leadership primary.
What if she, and not Shaul Mofaz, had concluded a back-room deal with Netanyahu before dawn on Tuesday? Even that would not have made a difference.
The peace process was frozen before Kadima entered the coalition and it is likely to remain frozen now that Kadima has partnered with the Likud.
The issue is not Kadima, or Livni, or Mofaz. Netanyahu first formed his coalition with the Labor Party in 2009, and the presence of that left-wing political group also did nothing to affect the peace process.
Netanyahu and the Likud Party are the only factors that matter in this regard.
It is true that the prime minister has not endeared himself to the Palestinians. But then again, they are not overly found of Mofaz, either. Tzipi Livni was their favored Kadima politician.
The growing divide between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships has much more to do with differences on policy and strategy that the personalities of those in power.
Likud is the party in power, and it is its diplomatic platform that the Palestinians have rejected.
Other parties and politicians such as Kadima and Mofaz could make a difference only if they sway the Likud to change its platform to one that accepts the pre- 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations, with some land swaps, as proposed by the Palestinians.
But under the new 94-MK national unity government, no party has the power to force Netanyahu to take this step. The government is too large to cede to threats to destroy it.
Kadima’s coalition agreement, which it signed on Tuesday, similarly did little to push the prime minister to amend his diplomatic platform.
At a press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and Mofaz spoke of the peace process as one of four priorities for the new national unity government.
But the coalition agreement dealt with it in three lines.
It stated that the two parties agree to work to renew the process and to advance negotiations with the Palestinians. Both sides agree on the importance of preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state as well as defensible borders.
The Likud government has already argued that the pre- ’67 lines are not defensible.
It is the words in the coalition agreement and the absence of policy change by which the Palestinians are judging Kadima and the new government. They seek concrete actions showing Israel is serious about the peace process. For them, this means acceptance of the ’67 lines as the basis for negotiation and a freeze on settlement activity.
On Tuesday, they called on the new government to take the necessary steps for peace.
When asked about the peace process at the press conference, Mofaz spoke of a plan that he has for a twostage peace process that involves borders and security, but he never mentioned the ’67 lines.
Nor is he likely to get a chance anytime soon to present his plan directly to the Palestinians, because nothing they have seen so far has swayed them sit down with Netanyahu and his government.
Israel, in turn, believes that the Palestinians are not ready to seek peace.
The government measures intent not through policy, but through process. It believes that the Palestinians are not serious about peace because they have refused to sit down to negotiate.
Netanyahu summed it up for one reporter, when he said that the Palestinian refusal to talk with Israel was the problem.
“The process is not stuck because of us; that is the truth,” he said. “It is stuck because until the Palestinians have not decided to sit and negotiate with us.
“I do not know how you advance negotiations, let alone conclude them, without engaging in them. We are prepared to engage in them at any time,” he said.