Likud platform likely to call for 'defensible borders'

A Palestinian state may not be ruled out as part of the plan.

bibi 2005 budget 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bibi 2005 budget 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Likud is expected to adopt a diplomatic platform that calls for negotiating a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would ensure that Israel will maintain secure and defensible borders, sources close to Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The platform is expected to be based on a plan written by Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'acov Amidror, former ambassador to the US Meir Rosenne and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dore Gold, who sought to define the "secure and defensible borders" term that US President George W. Bush used in an April 2005 speech alongside Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on his Texas ranch. The plan will be presented next week at the Herzliya Conference and Gold will be summoned to explain it to the Likud's platform committee. The date of the committee's first meeting has not yet been set, but Netanyahu already gave indications that he wanted the defensible borders plan adopted on December 26 in the first speech he made to the Likud central committee after he became party chairman. "The time has come for a party to say what Israel will keep and not what we should give away," Netanyahu said in the speech. "There are three different approaches: Keeping all the land, which I think would be a mistake; withdrawing from nearly all the land, which Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Amir Peretz support and I think is dangerous; and our policy, which is defensible borders for Israel." Netanyahu said his defensible borders would include the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, an undivided Jerusalem, settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, and the hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport, the Gush Dan region and Route 443. The same borders appear in the plan, which Gold told the Post was presented to Netanyahu. The plan was also presented to Kadima's Sharon and Avi Dichter, but only the Likud is expected to adopt it. Gold, whom Netanyahu appointed Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, said he considered himself a close confidant of Netanyahu and he looked forward to assisting the Likud leader in the future. Steinitz said he had discussed the plan on several occasions with Netanyahu and he had advised him to mention the plan in his speech to the central committee. Steinitz said the plan offered a significant contrast to statements top Kadima officials have made about the possibility of a unilateral withdrawal to the security fence. "A unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank is a prescription for continuous conflict until Israel is forced back to the 1967 border," he said. "The existing settlement blocs are not enough to prevent Kassams falling on the center of the country. That's why the border has to include the Shomron hills from Elkana to Modi'in Illit." Steinitz said a Palestinian state would not be ruled out in the plan, but there would be no talk of a final-status agreement until the Palestinians stopped terrorism, violence and incitement. The Likud, until now, had ruled out the possibility of a Palestinian state, and the Likud central committee reaffirmed the party's opposition to such a state at Netanyahu's request in 2002 in a meeting that ultimately helped Sharon gain on Netanyahu in the polls. Besides Steinitz, the platform committee will include MKs Uzi Landau, Michael Eitan and Gideon Sa'ar. Landau said that because the Palestinians would never live up to their commitments to end terrorism, a Palestinian state would not be formed. "I am against the establishment of a Palestinian state and everything must be done to prevent it," he said. "The Israeli government adopted the road map [plan] and we have to stand strong on the first step, which requires the Palestinians to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and end incitement." Sa'ar was appointed the head of the Likud campaign's public relations team on Monday, replacing Likud MK Limor Livnat, who is not on speaking terms with Netanyahu, who forced her to resign from the cabinet when the Likud quit the coalition. Netanyahu, who officially became opposition leader on Monday, will convene all of the Likud's Knesset candidates on Wednesday at the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters for a motivational meeting. He decided Monday to expel eight activists from the Likud who were quoted on Sunday talking about toppling him ahead of the March 28 election. The activists will be given two weeks to appeal the decision. The activists, who met at the Bangkok caf in Petah Tikva, said they would give Netanyahu a week to rise in the polls or they would circulate a petition to convene the Likud central committee to topple him. Netanyahu also wants to expel Kiryat Shmona mayor Haim Barbivai, who joined Kadima, and an activist from Netanya named Baruch Hasan, who heckled Netanyahu at a press conference in July.