Written by P. David Hornik
Media reports quote anonymous Israeli officials saying Israel has decided, after all, to negotiate a two-state arrangement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders. The reports have a certain shock value; reading between the lines, the shock dissipates somewhat.
AP calls it a “dramatic policy shift” and cites a report on Israel’s Channel 2 TV that said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now “basically accepting the framework” of the 1967 lines, broached by President Obama—with much shock value—last May. AP also says an Israeli official “would not deny the TV report, while refusing to confirm the specifics. He emphasized that Israel would not withdraw from all of the West Bank.”
AP quotes the official: “We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse.”
AP continues: “Part of the reason, he said, was that Israel is seeking to persuade the Palestinians to drop their initiative to win UN recognition of their state next month….”
As for AFP (Agence France-Presse), its report has an Israeli official saying that “Israel has been working with Washington and members of the international peace-making Quartet [the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia] to draw up a new framework that could relaunch stalled talks.”
This official, too, tells AFP that “Israel was not being asked to return to the lines that existed before the 1967 war,” and, further, that “The formulation is something like: the goal for the talks is two states for two people and [the Palestinians] recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”
Britain’s Daily Telegraph claims it, too, has been tipped off, trumpeting that “the Israeli prime minister has bowed to U.S. pressure by agreeing for the first time that a Palestinian state should roughly follow the contours of the 1967 ceasefire lines separating the West Bank from Israel,” and saying “A government official in Jerusalem told The Daily Telegraph the offer was dependent on the Palestinians dropping their campaign for statehood at the United Nations next month and accepting Israel as a Jewish state.”
The first two reports also quote Palestinian reactions to the alleged major Israeli concession; to put it mildly, they don’t sound impressed. AP narrates that “Palestinian officials said they had not received such a proposal from Israel”—that is, to drop their UN initiative in return for Israel adopting different language on borders; and that
Palestinian officials said Monday they plan to begin mass marches against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank on Sept. 20, the eve of the UN vote.
Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said leaders hope to attract millions, and the protest will be the first of a prolonged effort. He said the campaign would be called “Palestine 194,” since the Palestinians hope to become the 194th member of the United Nations.
And AFP quotes Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat urging Netanyahu to
“announce his position in front of the world and the international media.”
Netanyahu should announce “that the 1967 borders are the basis for negotiations and a halt to all building of settlements on Palestinian land, including east Jerusalem,” he told AFP, dismissing the reports as a PR exercise.
Indeed, the Jerusalem Post reports Netanyahu as having “expressed pessimism” to the Israeli cabinet “about returning to talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he seems to be determined to bring Palestinian statehood recognition to a UN vote in September.”
Hence, Netanyahu said, Israel was “working to ensure a US veto in the UN Security Council…”
A statement that should put all of the above in perspective.
In other words, while the U.S. administration has expressed opposition to the Palestinian push to get a state declared unilaterally at the UN, and while it has been speculated or even assumed that the U.S. would veto such a proposal in the Security Council, the U.S. has never come out and confirmed this.
Such ongoing reluctance regarding a veto should surprise no one. When last February the Obama administration vetoed a Palestinian-inspired Security Council resolution to declare all Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and parts of Jerusalem “illegal,” UN Ambassador Susan Rice compensated the Palestinians by tarring all such communities as “illegitimate,” deploying some of the harshest and most abusive language against Israel ever used by the U.S.
The result, then, is that Israel is still in limbo and under a lot of pressure, leading it to signal a certain—though not total, and hedged with important conditions—capitulation to Obama.
Who, for his part, appears to remain stuck in his grim obsession with Palestinian statehood despite the Palestinians’: continuing systematic anti-Israeli incitement and glorification of terrorism; contemptuous refusal, now extending over two years, to negotiate with Israel; staunch negation of its right to exist as a Jewish state; and not-so-veiled threats of further violence.
None of which sits well, at all, with Congress—which, no doubt, has been distracted by other matters lately. But with the debt-ceiling crisis resolved for the time being, Congress needs again to confront the administration’s ongoing pressures to extort totally unreciprocated concessions from a democratic ally.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com.