PM’s latest stance on Palestinian state likely a thank-you
By HERB KEINON, JPOST
In what could be the initial repayment to the US for its Friday veto of the Palestinian anti-settlement resolution in the UN Security Council, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went further toward embracing the idea of a Palestinian state in a statement he issued Saturday night than in any of his previous speeches or statements.
“Israel deeply appreciates the decision by President [Barack] Obama to veto the Security Council resolution today,” read the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. “Israel remains committed to pursuing comprehensive peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. We seek a solution that will reconcile the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration for statehood with Israel’s need for security and recognition.”
This was the first time that Netanyahu came out and endorsed Palestinian statehood in such unequivocal language, and this statement – coordinated with Washington – is not believed to be divorced from the US agreement to veto the resolution.
Netanyahu himself said Sunday he had been in contact with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both before and after the vote.
In his landmark Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009, Netanyahu nodded toward a two-state solution without being as unambiguous as he was in Saturday’s statement.
“In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence,” he said at the time.
And in September 2010 in Washington, at the launch of the short-lived direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the State Department, Netanyahu said, “Just as you expect us to be ready to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, we expect you to be prepared to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
In language similar to that used in Saturday’s statement, Netanyahu told Abbas in September, “I am fully aware and I respect your people’s desire for sovereignty. I’m convinced that it’s possible to reconcile that desire with Israel’s need for security.”
But there Netanyahu said “sovereignty,” and did not mention “legitimate aspirations for statehood.” Both Israel and US officials, meanwhile, denied that there was any Israeli-US quid pro quo for Friday’s veto.
The London-based Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat, meanwhile, reported that the deal the US offered the Palestinians in return for a withdrawal of the resolution included not only US support for a nonbinding Security Council resolution statement condemning the settlements, and support for dispatching a UN Security Council factfinding team to visit the territories, but also support in the upcoming Quartet meeting for a statement that would have included a reference to the 1967 borders.
That would have been a significant shift in US policy, since the Quartet formula up until now has been that negotiations should “lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.”
The Palestinians have long looked for international statements recognizing that any future agreement should be along the contours of the 1967 lines, something the US has heretofore refrained from doing. “Ending the occupation that began in 1967” and calling for a Palestinian state with the 1967 lines as a starting reference point are not the same thing.
The paper quoted PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki as saying that Abbas told Obama, during a 50-minute phone call in which the US president unsuccessfully tried to convince the PA leader to withdraw the resolution, that “any withdrawal from our side will mean that we will lose credibility, not just in the eyes of the 130 countries that gave their support for the draft resolution, but with the Palestinian and Arab street. We do not want to find ourselves in the same conditions that are prevailing in the region, a condition of clashing with the Palestinian street.”
One diplomatic source in Jerusalem, trying to understand why the PA refused Obama’s appeal and forced a confrontation with the most sympathetic administration the Palestinians have had in years, said that in light of the mass upheaval throughout the Arab world – some of it laced with anti-Israeli and anti-US overtones – it was definitely not in the PA’s interest to come out looking as if it “dances to Washington’s tune.”