As if the crisis in relations with Turkey, the deterioration of Israel's ties with Egypt and Jordan and the erosion of its standing in Europe were not enough, government spokesmen are now trying to outdo each other in promising to deepen the occupation of the territories.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened on Wednesday that a UN decision to recognize a Palestinian state "will have grave consequences." His deputy, Danny Ayalon, called for annexing the West Bank settlement blocs and expediting construction in the settlements. MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ), a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not make do with annexing the "blocs"; he proposed applying Israeli sovereignty to the entire territory.
Concern over the disastrous impact such irresponsible reactions could have on regional stability brought U.S. President Barack Obama's envoys, Dennis Ross and David Hale, as well as EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton here this week. The three were recruited for a last-ditch effort to reach an agreed-on formula that would allow a resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and reduce the danger of an outbreak of violence in the territories.
As they shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the envoys discovered that the parties were entrenched in their positions. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held fast to his demand that talks be based on Obama's speech of May 19 (the 1967 borders with mutually agreed territorial swaps ) and a 90-day hiatus on construction in the settlements. Netanyahu insisted that the Palestinians agree in advance to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. He also rejected Abbas' demand to freeze construction in the settlements.
Neither the crisis with the Palestinians in the international arena nor the danger that it will deteriorate into a violent regional confrontation are decrees of fate. Instead of flexing its muscles and spouting deranged ideas, the government must cooperate wholeheartedly with representatives of the Quartet to find a creative solution that will stop the deterioration.
Killing the Oslo process, giving up on the two-state solution and perpetuating Israel's rule over millions of Palestinians would jeopardize its very existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
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