PM: Don't believe reports on diplomatic initiative

MKs upset about reports Netanyahu considering unilateral concessions to Palestinians; PM: Deal will depend on guarantees of security, land.

Netanyahu 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to reassure his Likud faction on Monday that he would not sacrifice Israel’s security in a diplomatic initiative that he intends to present to the world in the near future.
Netanyahu faced a challenge at the faction meeting from MKs Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, and Tzipi Hotovely, who were upset about reports that he was considering unilateral concessions to the Palestinian Authority.
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“I am not finished drafting my plan, I am still evaluating the impact of the changes in the region,” Netanyahu reportedly said in the closed-door meeting.
“Don’t take too seriously what you see in the press. I am sometimes just as surprised as you are by what the press reports. Any deal we make will depend on guarantees of security and land.”
Danon criticized Netanyahu for seeking to please US President Barack Obama, saying that “we are obligated first to the people who sent us to power and only then to the people who send us money.”
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud rival, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, attacked him in an Israel Radio interview.
He said he expected the prime minister to present his plan to his party before he presents it to the world and that it was incorrect to take steps under pressure.
“We went to the public with an agenda, and we can’t turn it around 180 degrees,” Shalom said. “If we go in a direction that is completely different than the mandate we received from the public, people will prefer the original Tzipi Livni and not the copy that the Likud would become.”
Netanyahu also faced pressure from the Left to unveil his plan as soon as possible. Both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor expressed optimism that he could pass his diplomatic initiative in the Likud.
Barak, who has become the closest minister to Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that this was the time for the prime minister to display leadership and take risks to prevent Israel’s isolation.
Meridor told Army Radio, “If we don’t begin a diplomatic initiative, the entire world will recognize a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders.
“We need to hurry to define our goals. If we leave things unclear, there is a danger that we can reach a situation like we saw at the UNSC that everything has the same fate: The Jewish Quarter [of the Old City] and [isolated settlements] Elon Moreh and [Har] Bracha.”
Former ambassador to Washington Zalman Shoval endorsed the idea of Netanyahu unveiling the initiative in a speech to a joint session of Congress.
He said he hoped the prime minister’s coalition would not prevent him from making the best of a complicated situation.
“The US Congress on both sides of the aisle is an important player in US-Israel relations,” Shoval said.
“Israel needs a strong physical, strategic and political presence of the US in the Middle East and, therefore, understands that it also may have to undertake certain initiatives with regards to the Palestinians in order to facilitate the above aim and to prevent steps and initiatives from other sources, while the US, in the wake of the upheavals in the region, is hopefully waking up to the reality that Israel is indeed its only reliable strategic partner in the region, but also, that in order to make progress on the peace front, Israel’s justified security and other concerns in the shifting sands of the Middle East must be taken into account.”