Likud: Talks are a huge achievement

PM to meet Yishai over issue of Jerusalem; Barak, Livni praise talks.

Binyamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Associated Press)
Binyamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: Associated Press)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement on Friday that diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would resume on September 2 evoked conflicting reactions from inside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
An official Likud statement released by the head of the party’s reaction team, MK Ophir Akunis, called the American announcement on talks without preconditions a huge achievement for Israel.
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“It took a year and a half to persuade the international community and the Palestinians that direct dialogue is the only way to try to reach a solution to the conflict,” Akunis said. “This is further proof that when you stand up for your principles and do not give in, you can attain diplomatic achievements.”
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan also welcomed the start of talks. In a letter he sent to 1,300 Likud activists over the weekend, he came out in favor of continuing the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, except in the settlement blocs and the Jewish community of Hebron.
Eitan said Israel should already begin evacuating settlers from areas destined to be given to the Palestinians and that IDF soldiers should temporarily live in the homes. He said that in the talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu should seek an arrangement that would allow some West Bank Jews to remain in their homes in a Palestinian state.
MK Danny Danon heard the announcement about the planned summit in the United States, where he is seeking support from Jewish leaders and Republican politicians to oppose territorial concessions in the diplomatic process. Danon intended to start a campaign when the freeze is set to end on September 26, but he said he would have to advance his efforts.
“The prime minister must clarify to the government in Washington that he won’t participate in Obama and Clinton’s games of wishful thinking,” Danon said. “The voices from the White House talking about solving the conflict in a year just prove how little they understand the reality in the Middle East. The distance between Obama’s desire to form a Palestinian state in most of Judea and Samaria with Jerusalem as its capital and the viewpoint of the current coalition cannot be bridged.”
Netanyahu is expected to meet on Sunday with Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who threatened to leave past governments if the fate of Jerusalem was put on the table. Yishai’s associates declined to respond before the meeting to the restarting of talks.
Labor chairman Ehud Barak released a statement expressing satisfaction with the beginning of the talks, which he pushed forward in many talks with American officials.
“Israel wants peace with security,” Barak said. “Both sides will have to make courageous decisions in order to reach an agreement.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also praised the restart of the diplomatic process. Her associates said she had pushed for a year and a half for talks to begin at the point where her own negotiations with the Palestinians (when she was foreign minister) ended due to the national election in February 2009.
“She is happy that the talks will cover all the core issues of the conflict,” a Livni associate said.