Obama holds Netanyahu at “gunpoint”
By Ted Belman
Before forming the present government PM Netanyahu stood for the following
- no two state solution
- no Shalit trade as was then being negotiated
- no construction freeze and
- no presentation of an Israeli plan for its borders
Since taking office he violated all these supposed red lines. He gave a speech in which he accepted “two states for two peoples”. He made the Shalit trade he previously had opposed. He imposed a 10 month freeze for nothing in return and in many ways imposed a de facto freeze.
And now, it appears he has agreed to present, “comprehensive proposals” for resolving key aspects of conflict within three months.
By agreeing to this and not rejecting the peace process, Israel is accepting negotiations which aim to bridge the gap. Netanyahu has thus crossed another red line.
Bibi had insisted on negotiations without preconditions. But with this latest report that Israel has agreed to present a Plan before negotiations can start, he has accepted the precondition of presenting a plan before negotiations start.
Netanyahu inherited the Shalit negotiations and once complained that he was dealt a lousy hand as though he couldn’t have started all over again. Similarly, he is not prepared to start all over again on peace negotiations and is prepared to play with the hand he was dealt. It too is a lousy hand.
By Netanyahu formally agreeing to present such proposals, he confirms that he is following Olmert and Barak. This is something Bibi has repeatedly said he would not do just as he has always said he is against the Shalit deal.
This goes way beyond playing rope-a-dope to buy time. This shows a seriousness about negotiations and an intention to really negotiate along the dictates of Obama and his proxy, the Quartet.
Netanyahu has to ask for more than he expects to get, yet on the other hand, if he asks for too much the Quartet will say he is not serious and penalize him/Israel for it. Not for a moment, do I believe that this was his idea or that he willingly went along.
The article Knesset visitor blasts Obama and Netanyahu advises that MK Eldad accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of buckling under intense pressure from President Barack Obama, who wants to prevent any Israeli retaliation against the Palestinian Authority in its bid to win recognition as a state from the United Nations.
He (Eldad) charged that Obama was holding Netanyahu “at gunpoint” – the gun being the U.S. threat to go back on its promise to veto the Palestinian statehood bid in the UN Security Council.
Specifically, Obama has demanded that Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters in the United States pressure Congress to abort two pending resolutions to penalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) if it pursues its bid, Eldad claimed.
One would shut off U.S. aid funds to the Palestinians and a second would support Israel’s right to annex the West Bank. The legal justification for such actions, cited by many Israeli officials, would be that the unilateral statehood request would be a direct violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The inescapable conclusion is that Bibi felt he had no choice but to agree with the Quartet’s new Plan in which they proposed that the parties meet for a month and then prepare proposals within the following three months. To my mind the Quartet would not have come out with their plan, at that time, had not Bibi agreed to it.
The Palestinian request for recognition is still with the UNSC and will not be voted on or vetoed until Bibi presents his plan. So Eldad was 100 % correct.
Diplomacy being what it is, the Quartet will do its utmost to get Bibi to better Olmert’s offer. Abbas had offered to allow Israel to keep much less land. Abbas wanted to keep Ariel and much of east Jerusalem including Maaleh Adumin. When Netanyahu formed his government he made it clear that in no way would he match Olmert’s offer. I don’t see how he can avoid it.
When the Kadimah government proposed convergence, there was great opposition to expelling 125,000 Jews. Olmert tried to lessen this number by keeping Ariel and Maaleh Adumin. If he had succeeded, I think as much as 75,000 would have needed to be expelled.
Haaretz published the details of Olmert’s Plan
Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. His proposal would have also involved evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern Samarian hills and in the Hebron region. In return for the annexation to Israel of Ma’aleh Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and settlements adjacent to Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence.
When his offer, made at the end of his term became public, the Israelis were outraged. It is for this reason that Bibi said he rejected it.
It is clear that Olmert was negotiating swaps. Swaps were first mentioned by the Saudi Government when it presented the Saudi Plan in 2002. The Bush administration insisted that this plan, as amended in the Arab Initiative, be included in the Roadmap. Olmert thus had accepted the idea of swaps even though Res 242 did not mention it or require it.
The Haaretz article indicated that Olmert’s Plan followed up on negotiations in Annapolis, though it was expressed there, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. His plan was also discussed with the Bush administration who had agreed to finance the development of the Negev to accommodate the expelled Israelis.
And we must not forget that Res 242 allowed us to keep some of the territories and to have secure borders. Oslo was founded on it. Although Bibi flat out rejected Obama’s framework for negotiations last May, by agreeing to present his plan he is in effect accepting it in deed if not in words. It irritates me to be fighting over inches i.e. whether we give them 97.6% of the land vs 100 %. The negotiations should center on whether we give them Areas A and B representing 40% of the land or perhaps 10 or 20% more. The Obama proposal makes a mockery of Res 242.
This report, like the Geneva Initiative before it, was clearly intended to narrow the gaps and produce a settlement between the Olmert and the Abbas proposals. This is what Obama and the Quartet envisage for a settlement. It most certainly will be based on the ’67 lines with swaps and will require Israel to get less land than she wants and to give more land than she wants. Amb Daniel Kurtzer was one of the advisers on this project and we all know that he is against the settlements and always has been. I believe that the Obama administration, the Israeli Left including Yossi Beilin probably had input as well.
I question some of the population numbers quoted in the Atlantic article. The 500,000 figure for settlers, quoted in the Atlantic may have been right early in the Kadima government but it no longer is. The Jewish population increases at the rate of 6% per annum in the territories and therefor would be well over 600,000 today, five years later. Recently, MK Ketzela said it was closer to 700,000.
Finally it is not by chance that just this week Abe Foxman and David Harris launched their Pledge of silence to minimize opposition to what is going on.
And I haven’t even mentioned the so called right of return and Jerusalem. Both Olmert and Barak have offered to take in a “token” number of “refugees” (perhaps as many as 100,000) and to share or internationalize Jerusalem.
Rest assured that the Golan is next.
There is no way that the Quartet would allow Bibi to get away with drawing up a plan where we get to keep Area C as our opener as an example and there is no way Bibi is going to do that with the gun to her head.