An unexpected voice joined the critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's standstill policy this week: Ron Lauder. The president of the World Jewish Congress has been a close friend, confidant and clear supporter of Netanyahu throughout his political career. Speaking in Jerusalem, he warned that the political standstill on the Palestinian front is dangerous for Israel. Lauder called on Netanyahu to launch a diplomatic initiative, even if this would mean "political suicide."
According to Lauder, "the only way for Israel to escape international isolation is to initiate negotiations without preconditions [with the Palestinians]," as Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz Wednesday. The international community is not interested in Netanyahu's political problems, and the United Nations General Assembly is expected to overwhelmingly recognize a Palestinian state, Lauder warned. "Everything must be done so that this does not happen," he said.
Netanyahu often says that Israel is willing to negotiate "without preconditions," and that the Palestinians are to blame for the frozen talks due to their demands that Israel freeze settlement construction and accept the Obama formula (1967 borders with agreed territorial exchanges ) as a basis for talks. But Netanyahu too is setting preconditions for resuming negotiations by refusing to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas until he "rips up the agreement with Hamas," and by demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Based on what he said, Lauder is calling on Netanyahu to abandon these preconditions and launch substantive negotiations immediately.
Lauder is not a leftist who favors withdrawals. He was an ambassador for Ronald Reagan's Republican administration and supported all of Netanyahu's campaigns, which were characterized by opposition to compromises with the Palestinians. During Netanyahu's previous tenure, Lauder mediated with Syrian President Hafez Assad for him. The prime minister should take his experience friend's advice seriously. Lauder wants what is good for Israel and is concerned by its growing international isolation. Netanyahu should drop his preconditions and propose an Israeli political initiative on the Palestinian front, even if this causes a coalition crisis. The country is more important.
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