Israeli PM Netanyahu says his very clear policy is the same … maybe

The Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) sent around via email to journalists this transcript of selected remarks made in an interview yesterday of Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, as interviewed by Israel’s Channel 10 TV:

Prime Minister Netanyahu: I have set very clear policy; I did this in my 14.6.09 Bar-Ilan University speech. [The full transcript in English-language translation is posted here] There I said as follows: If the Palestinians recognize a Jewish State, if they shelve the idea of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, if they have a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – I tell you here and now that I will go with this to the end and that no coalition consideration will stop me, and I have no doubt that a majority will support me.

Question: “Then perhaps [Foreign] Minister [Avigdor] Liberman is correct when he says, ‘Let us go for a long-range interim agreement and not a permanent agreement immediately, within a year, like you want?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “If we get into this discussion, we will likely hit a wall; a wall named Jerusalem, perhaps a wall named refugees. It could be that the result would be an interim agreement. It’s possible. I do not rule this out, including in the talks that we have held. I said that it’s possible. If we say this in advance, it is not certain they will come so easily. But it could be the result of a diplomatic process; I am not certain that it should be its primary goal.”

Question: “Are you indicating a possible change in policy, which says that there will be additional phases, the transfer of additional areas to the Palestinians, as you have already done in the past?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I am not going into details on this.”

Ma’an News Agency reported later that “A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas shot down the suggestion. ‘For the Palestinians, any suggestion of reaching an interim agreement is unacceptable because it omits Jerusalem and the issue of refugees’, he said. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also dismissed Netanyahu’s suggestion, saying: ‘interim solutions are rejected part and parcel … It’s now time for final solutions that include Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security, settlements, water and the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails’, he said … Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But they stalled when a partial 10-month freeze on Israeli settlement building expired on September 26. The Palestinians refused to resume negotiations without a new moratorium and Washington admitted on December 7 that it had failed to convince Israel to renew the building curbs. Palestinian negotiators have emphasized a set of alternatives to new talks, including seeking recognition of a Palestinian state along the borders that existed in 1967, before the Six Day War”. This was reported here.

State Department: America's "ultimate goal" remains the same

U.S. State Department Acting Spokesman Mark C. Toner told journalists at the daily press briefing on 27 December that U.S. “ultimate goals” — including”an effort that will lead to direct negotiations and ultimately a comprehensive settlement” — remain the same.

And, he said (but only in response to a question) the U.S. is still committed to a Palestinian State “within” the 1967 borders — “with legitimate swaps”…

Here are excerpts from the State Department transcript of the briefing, sent via email:

M. TONER:We continue to work to bring both parties back into direct negotiations and to achieve a comprehensive settlement. And frankly, responding to various comments by various officials or government officials is not an effective way to do that. We’re trying to maintain close consultations with both parties, and again, in an effort that will lead to direct negotiations and ultimately a comprehensive settlement“.

QUESTION: One more. Many countries in South America are recognizing a Palestinian state now in a unilateral way. Are you giving a [yellow] light to these countries…?

M. TONER: “That’s okay, Samir. We’ve been very, very clear about our concerns regarding unilateral actions by either party that would in any way jeopardize what remains our ultimate goal, which is to return to direct negotiations and to reach a final – or a comprehensive settlement, a peace settlement. So – and we’ve said on the record many times that we would believe that Palestinian efforts for unilateral independence would fall into that category“.

QUESTION: Sorry, Mark. A follow-up on one of the previous Middle East peace process questions. Is the U.S. still committed to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders?

M. TONER: “Yes. I don’t have the chapter and verse in front of me, but I believe that’s the – with legitimate swaps. I’d have to check the wording, so I’m hesitant to say on the record because I don’t have the wording in front of me. But we’ve said it many times on the record, and I just would refer you to previous statements by Senator Mitchell“.

DPB # 210

Robert Malley + Hussein Agha mix metaphors: without "seismic shift", we've reached the "end of the road"

Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, a team who have written a number of key and informed articles for intellectual media about how the U.S. conducted the unsuccessful Camp David negotiations (hosted by U.S. President Bill Clinton) in late July 2000 between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have written today in The Guardian that “amid speculation over how Israelis and Palestinians might now resume their talks, a reality is taking hold: the point is fast approaching where negotiations between the two will be, for all practical purposes and for the foreseeable future, over. As emissaries are dispatched and ideas explored, discussions could well carry on. But they will have lost all life, energy or sense of purpose”.

This piece of analysis is rather trite in describing the motives and situation of Israel’s current Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. It is better at taking on the current Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

They write: “Two years ago [when Barak Obama had been elected and his transition team was putting together his new administration] Abbas also harboured a faith of sorts. Part of it was fuelled by a lifelong belief that Israelis could be persuaded by sheer force of reason and logic of the need for compromise. He also invested high hopes in President Obama and, based on precedent, had little cause to believe a rightwing Israeli prime minister would necessarily be worse than a centrist or leftwing one. What optimism there was did not last long, replaced by a growing sense of dejection. Abbas faced a heroic task for which he needed help from all. He got it from virtually none. Belief in the United States soon started to fade, a victim of Washington’s serial tactical misjudgments and inability to live up to its promises. Abbas felt betrayed too by Arab regimes that had pledged their support only to desert him at the first opportunity. On the domestic front, there is no political weight or momentum behind the negotiations. Not unlike Netanyahu, the Palestinian president emerged profoundly discouraged from their meetings, shaken by his counterpart’s demands, staggered by the chasm separating their respective positions. For Abbas, who has staked all on negotiations, the realisation was especially deflating. His rejection of violence is heartfelt and not something he is about to revisit. Yet only now is he coming to terms with its practical consequences, with no viable alternative to the failed diplomatic diplomatic strategy”.

Continue reading Robert Malley + Hussein Agha mix metaphors: without "seismic shift", we've reached the "end of the road"

European Union Foreign Ministers say they are ready to recognize a Palestinian State "when appropriate"

European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers issued a statement on Monday, at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting held in Brussels on Monday, repeating the conclusions they reached a year ago: “We reiterate those Conclusions. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. This could include agreed territorial swaps. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states. The EU calls for an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee question. A negotiated settlement must allow the two States to live side by side in peace and security”.

The EU council of Foreign Ministers also “reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state. We welcome the World Bank’s assessment that ‘if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance in institution building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future’.”

When appropriate…

Actually, something not too different was mentioned at the end of the first World War, just before the League of Nations authorized Britain to manage the Palestine Mandate … which was categorized as a Class A Mandate, over a people who were almost ready for independence…

Akiva Eldar, too: the new U.S. position offers "an alibi for deepening the occupation"

Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz today — after the U.S. declared last week that it would no longer press Israel to reinstate even its porous settlement “moratorium”, and after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech at the Saban Forum over the weekend that she was encouraging both sides to come up with a model for their favorite solutions to the “core issues” of the conflict — that “the focus on the final-status talks offers an alibi for deepening the occupation. The high and mighty words about two states for two peoples silence the protest voices of a nation that for more than 43 years has lived under the occupation of another nation … Contrary to the impression that government spokesmen are trying to create – that Israel is gradually withdrawing from the territories based on the necessary caution dictated by security needs – the soldiers [who gave their personal testimony to the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence] describe a steadfast effort to tighten Israel’s hold on the West Bank and the Palestinian population. … It says in the [new] book [published by Breaking the Silence] that the continued construction in the settlements is not only about stealing land whose future the two sides are meant to decide through negotiations. The increased presence of a Jewish population brings with it an increase in security measures such as the policy of ‘separation’. The testimonies show that this policy practically serves to control, plunder and annex the territories. It funnels the Palestinians through the Israeli control mechanism and establishes new borders on the ground through a policy of divide and rule. These borders mark the ‘settlement blocs’, which Israeli politicians argue are part of Israel (greater Ariel and the areas around Ma’aleh Adumim ). Soldiers who served in the Civil Administration say the settlers play an active role in imposing military rule over the Palestinians. The settlers hold public positions and are permanent parties to the discussions and the decisions by the army on matters concerning the Palestinians in areas where they live. Settler violence against the Palestinians is also used to control the Palestinian population. Stories about ‘economic prosperity’ in the West Bank create the impression that life under foreign occupation can be tolerable and even not so bad. So it’s not so bad that negotiations continue for a year or two. But the soldiers who have served at the checkpoints or the fence crossings describe how they decide who will pass, which goods may move from one city to the next, who may send his children to school or make it to university, and who will receive medical treatment. The book has testimonies about the confiscation of homes, agricultural land, vehicles and even farm animals, sometimes for security reasons, but often because annexation is the motive. Sometimes the Israel Defense Forces also ‘confiscates’ people too, for ‘training’. They break into a house at night and take someone into custody until the end of the exercise”… This Akiva Eldar analysis is posted here.

Why is the U.S. so oblivious to all of this? Why does it think that it is tolerable for people (Palestinians, in this case) to have to live under these conditions, under this occupation?

Continue reading Akiva Eldar, too: the new U.S. position offers "an alibi for deepening the occupation"