In Berlin, PM aims to thwart support for Palestinian state

Berlin: Netanyahu will attempt to dissuade German Chancellor Merkel from pushing Quartet to issue statement for '67 borders Palestinian state.

Netanyahu sweating 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Netanyahu sweating 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will leave Wednesday night for Berlin, where he will try to dissuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel from pushing for the Quartet to issue a statement at its next meeting calling for a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, with agreed-upon land swaps.
Following his brief visit in Berlin, which will last less than 24 hours, Netanyahu will go to Prague for a similar period – the first visit there by a sitting Israeli prime minister.
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The Quartet, composed of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, is expected to meet April 15 in Berlin. Britain, France and Germany are calling for a statement that would present the Palestinians with a vision of the “endgame,” in an effort to bring them back to the negotiating table.
Israel’s position – and one Netanyahu is expected to articulate in Germany – is that such a move would give the Palestinians what they want without their having to negotiate, and would also not guarantee their return to the talks.
Likewise, Israel’s position – articulated Tuesday by Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor at a Jerusalem conference sponsored by The Israel Project – is that such a statement would only provide one half of the endgame; the half the Palestinians want to hear.
Coming out now with a statement using the 1967 lines as the baseline, Meridor said, was “putting the carriage before the horse.” Meridor said the paradigm of a future solution had already been agreed upon: a two-state solution.
“The other elements should be negotiated, and not dictated,” he asserted.
Meridor said it was asymmetrical that when people spoke of endgame parameters, they only wanted to discuss borders – but not issues such as the need for the Palestinians to give up the idea of the right of return, or that a final agreement would represent an end to the conflict and all claims on Israel. This, Meridor said, reflecting government policy, was merely a means of pressuring Israel.
Agreeing to the 1967 lines as a baseline, Meridor said, ran against the American, Israeli and British interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from territories conquered in the Six Day War – but not all the territories.
“This is accepting the Soviet and Arab interpretation, and I don’t think that is right,” Meridor said.
Merkel is expected to ask Netanyahu about how he plans to push forward the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
However, sources close to Netanyahu denied the characterization that this visit to Germany was aimed at patching up ties with Merkel. The sources said that the report of a tense and angry phone call between the two last month following Germany’s vote against Israel in the UN Security Council was inaccurate, and that there was no need to mend ties.
Despite a great deal of speculation in recent weeks that Netanyahu was on the verge of launching a new Israeli initiative, perhaps by delivering a major policy speech on the matter, the prime minister himself has given no hint of his intentions.
Meridor said that if there were a new initiative, Israel should state clearly what its goals were regarding the future borders.
He said that by not doing so, Israel left the impression that it intended on keeping all the territories. He said Israel should explicitly say which settlement blocs it intended to hold.
Likewise, Meridor hinted that a new initiative could include convening some kind of international conference, similar to the Madrid conference.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that in addition to discussing the Palestinian issue, Merkel and Netanyahu would be discussing the changes in the region that have continued unabated since Merkel was in Israel with her cabinet in January.
“We have an intimate dialogue with the Germans on political, diplomatic and security issues,” one official said. “There is a joint desire to discuss these issues in the context of the changes.”
Following his meeting with Merkel, Netanyahu will fly to Prague Thursday afternoon for meetings there with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Necas.
The Czech Republic is one of Israel’s strongest friends in the EU, and this visit is viewed as an acknowledgement of the close relationship that has developed between Prague and Jerusalem.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, will also be in Germany on Thursday, taking part in a conference on Israeli-European relations and meeting with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. The following day, he will go to Munich to inaugurate the new consulate there.