Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected in the coming weeks to put forward a peace initiative in a bid to break through the deadlock in the peace process and extricate Israel from international isolation.
Netanyahu has warned in recent days during closed meetings that “a binational state would be disastrous for Israel,” and therefore it is necessary to undertake a political move that will remove this threat.
In recent weeks the prime minister has come under intense international pressure over Israel’s policies. Europe’s unequivocal stance against Israel at the Security Council vote on the issue of the settlements, the rebuke that accompanied the U.S. veto, and the unpleasant telephone exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week reportedly shook Netanyahu.
Moreover, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations are working together to push through an unprecedented agreement during the Quartet’s meeting in Paris in a week. According to the draft of the agreement that is being passed between the parties, the Quartet will declare that a Palestinian state will be established on the basis of the 1967 borders, with some land swaps.
In some of the drafts East Jerusalem is mentioned as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office say that in recent weeks Netanyahu has been talking with the Obama administration in order to formulate a program that would restart the peace process.
His adviser, Ron Dermer, flew secretly to Washington a week ago and met with senior White House officials. U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and Fred Hoff also visited Israel and met with Netanyahu.
“The prime minister has realized that the political impasse is not working in favor of Israel,” one of Netanyahu’s advisers said.
“Following a few weeks of revolution in the Arab world he is convinced that there are opportunities, not just threats, and that it is important to take advantage of the situation that was created in order to restart the peace process and put an end to the unilateral initiatives of the Palestinians.”
In private talks recently, Netanyahu has reportedly begun discussing the growing threat of a binational state.
“This trend will intensify and become stronger,” Netanyahu told his advisers. “However there are those in Israel who think that one state is a good idea. I think it is a disaster.”
Netanyahu would like to announce his peace plan in a speech in the coming weeks. One of the ideas being considered is that Netanyahu would speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Washington for an AIPAC conference in May, but his advisers are trying to move the trip to an earlier date. Discussion of a speech before a joint session was central to the talks between the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House.
A well-positioned Israeli source said that at this stage U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisers are reluctant to run with the idea over fears it has the imprint of talks between Netanyahu’s advisers and Republic Congressmen. Moreover, the White House is not yet convinced that Netanyahu’s speech will have sufficient substance for it to constitute a political breakthrough.
“The prime minister wants to move ahead substantively but he wants to know that he has American backing,” one of Netanyahu’s advisers said. “If the U.S. administration goes with him, he is willing to undertake compromises and take difficult steps.”
A senior source in Netanyahu’s bureau said that the prime minister had held talks about how to proceed forward with a small number of advisers, including ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, in order to avoid leaks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak participated in some of the meetings.