Just as with previous efforts to advance negotiations on a final-status agreement, the Jordanian attempt to breath new life into the diplomatic process has gotten hung up on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of dragging his feet. As Barak Ravid reported in yesterday's Haaretz in Hebrew, at this week's meeting in Amman with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israeli envoy Isaac Molho refused to present Israel's positions on borders and security.
Molho argued that under the Quartet's plan from September 2011, the deadline for submitting proposals on borders and security falls two months after the first meeting between the parties. In other words, the deadline is in early March, not January 26.
This is not the first time (and presumably won't be the last) that Netanyahu has avoided discussing core issues. But without discussing these issues, his Bar-Ilan University speech, in which he expressed willingness to advance a two-state solution, is meaningless.
The prime minister's refusal to present his final-status map and respond to the Palestinians' proposal on security led to the failure of the indirect talks that began in May 2010, under the guidance of George Mitchell, U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy. And at the end of that year, Netanyahu rejected the Quartet's urging that he accept the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations - a move that would have prevented the hubbub surrounding the Palestinians' application for admission to the United Nations.
Netanyahu isn't demanding the extra time in order to reformulate his positions on the extent of Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank or security arrangements in the territories; his views on the territories' future and Israel's security needs aren't expected to change in the next six weeks.
This systematic foot-dragging, like his encouragement of settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, stems from an irresponsible policy that ignores the changes happening in our region and increases Israel's isolation.
Netanyahu promised the Israeli public to work tirelessly to advance a two-state solution. Postponing the deadline for submitting his positions to the Quartet may prolong the life of his government, but it undermines the national interest.
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