Netanyahu not yet on record about 'new initiative'

After meeting Chilean president, PM talks only about Palestinian Authority refusal to talk, nothing about new plan; Barak meets Australian FM.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Even as sources around Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continue to say he plans to launch a new diplomatic initiative, Netanyahu has given no public indication of what he has in mind, or when – and even if – he will make such a move.
Instead, in meetings with foreign dignitaries, he has not been giving any details of a plan, and during a press opportunity on Sunday with visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, he again called on the Palestinians to enter negotiations, and challenged the international community to deal with Iran with as much determination as it was showing in dealing with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. He gave no indication, however, that he was on the cusp of a new initiative.
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“We are prepared to sit down and negotiate peace,” Netanyahu said. “And the Palestinians have found a variety of excuses not to do so.”
Government officials said Netanyahu wants to make clear that he is not in favor of unilateral action, and would much rather negotiate a final agreement with the Palestinians.
However, if the Palestinians continue to reject calls to enter negotiations, he is laying the groundwork for saying that a continued Palestinian refusal means that Israel will have no choice but to initiate a plan of its own – a plan that will surely fall well short of Palestinian aspirations.
Standing alongside Pinera, whose Chile was one of nine South American countries to recognize a Palestinian state in the past few months, Netanyahu said that ultimately the only way to reach an agreement was through negotiations.
“It cannot be imposed from the outside,” he said. “It must be done through the negotiations of the parties. We stand ready to negotiate; we hope our Palestinian partners will respond in kind.”
Pinera, whom Netanyahu characterized as a “great friend,” said Chile recognized a Palestinian state because just as Chile believes Israel has the right to live within secure borders “in order to be able to develop itself and increase the quality of life of its people,” it also believes “the Palestinians have right to have their own state, a free state, democratic state.”
Chile and Peru did not recognize the 1967 lines as the borders of that state, as was done by Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana, but rather said that the boundaries needed to be negotiated.
“When we recognized the Palestinian state, we made it very clear that the best way to reach a strong, secure, durable peace is by direct talks between the two countries.
Because, if they reach an agreement, then peace will be built over rock and not over sand,” Pinera said.
Netanyahu said the Palestinians have not responded to a variety of steps his government has taken, from calling for direct negations to removing hundreds of checkpoints and barriers to agreeing to a 10- month settlement moratorium, and “then an extension of that moratorium by three months.”
The Palestinians, he said, were instead trying to “go around the peace negotiations.
I’ll tell you why, because peace is hard. It’s been hard for me. It will be hard.
You have to make concessions and you have to look at the people in the eye and tell them not everything that we’d hoped for would be possible; there have to be compromises on both sides. But whereas Israel and I have been willing to move on this road, I’ve not seen the parallel willingness to do the same.”
The Palestinians were “relying on a Pavlovian reflex of the international community” to back their positions, and that they could simply “sit back,” the prime minister said.
The international community must do something that Chile and “a few other countries” have done: tell the Palestinians, “Come to negotiate; you can’t avoid a negotiation.
Come and talk peace. Talk peace to your own people, not only to foreign diplomats or foreign journalists. Talk peace to the Palestinian people,” Netanyahu said.
The international community needed to tell the Palestinian Authority to “give up the ghost. Tell them Israel is here to stay. Tell them there’s going to be a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state forever. Tell them that Israel will not be swamped by the offspring of Palestinian refugees,” he said.
“A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state” is the solution, the prime minister said. “But we cannot get to the solution; we cannot get to the end of the negotiations if we don’t get to the beginning of the negotiation.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also related to the role of the international community during a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, in Israel briefly as part of a regional tour.
Barak, according to a statement put out by his office, told Rudd – who was last in Israel in December – that the time had come for decisions both by Israel and the Palestinians.
“We need from the international community wise support that does not push the Palestinians up a tree from which it is difficult for them to come down later, and which also does not ignore Israel’s unique position in the Middle East as a stable democracy with unusual threats and complex security challenges,” Barak told Rudd.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, left on Sunday for Italy and the Vatican, where he will hold meetings with – among others – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.