Fifteen years ago this week, en route from Oman to Qatar,in a bedroom-less plane, reporters quoted the prime minister as follows: "We are heading to elections based on the following parameters: the Jordan will serve as a security border, Jerusalem will not be divided and the settlements will not be removed. That will be our position in the negotiations. There is no need to remove settlements."
The prime minister was Shimon Peres. Less than two months later, Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu took over the plane and sent Peres to exile in the opposition. Today Peres enters the White House as the president of Israel hoping to rescue the prime minister from his great troubles.
Peres knows that his "parameters" of April 1996, which were adopted by Netanyahu, are less relevant to the new Middle East (this time, without the quotation marks ) than the Goldstone Report following the declaration of repentance published in The Washington Post. In private talks, he says it is impossible to pin any hopes on the Bar-Ilan speech while the ground is trembling under Israel's feet.
The bizarre threat that Israel will react to a unilateral decision to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (though how can the anticipated support of more than 100 countries be considered "unilateral"? ) with its own unilateral steps is evidence of the level of panic in the Prime Minister's Office (Could they seriously be contemplating severing ties with 100 countries? ).
Netanyahu could handle a vote by the entire world for Palestine within the borders of the Green Line, with Jerusalem as its capital. The entire world, with the exception of one country - the one across from whose president President Peres will be sitting. Goldstone's "repentance" will help Netanyahu convince the Israeli public that the entire world is against us all the time. It makes it far more difficult to market a vote by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in favor of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and a divided Jerusalem.
Peres' big challenge is to hand Barack Obama a magic formula that the U.S. president can market to his partners in the Quartet at their meeting in Berlin next Friday. It will be the first meeting of the international Quartet since the allies attacked the Gadhafi regime. The Europeans, primarily British Foreign Secretary William Hague and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have already drawn the connection between the battle against the dictatorial Arab regimes, on the one hand, and the Israeli occupation regime in the territories, on the other.
Ethan Bronner, The New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem, this week cited a senior Israeli official who said: "The world thinks that it will force Israel to recognize the 1967 borders and the division of Jerusalem as a basis for negotiations? That will never happen." What is Netanyahu proposing to the "world" instead? From the report published in the world's leading newspaper, we learn that the "parameters" with which Bibi Netanyahu armed Peres are a transfer of some of the territories - those not those populated with settlers - to Palestinian control, and a "regional component," including an international conference, in response to the Arab peace initiative.
Palestinian dignitary Dr. Nabil Shaath did not react enthusiastically when he heard details of the proposal. He said that the Palestinians are determined to isolate Israel in order to help it understand that there are no negotiations without a construction freeze in the settlements.
Bronner was struck by the unusual level of pessimism among Israeli, Palestinian and Western officials with whom he spoke. The undersigned is partner to his sad impression.
The people's wishes
The following story is dedicated to my friend, Dr. Tamar Golan, who passed away last week. In the late 1980s, we joined Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on his trip to West Africa. While the guest was meeting with the president of Cameroon, Tamar suggested that we visit the neighboring village. Opposite the palace, which boasts Italian marble, crystal chandeliers and gold-plated faucets in the bathrooms, we met children covered in flies running around among miserable huts, and women carrying pitchers of water on their heads. After my return to Israel, the ambassador of Cameroon invited me for a meeting in order to discuss the article in Haaretz in which I had described the short trip from the palace to the village.
The ambassador explained that the president was carrying out the wishes of the people. In the tribal culture of the Africans, explained the Cameroonian diplomat, the natives are insulted if the leader of the neighboring tribe has a more magnificent palace than the head of their tribe. Any connection to Bibi-Tours and its effect on the prime minister's popularity should be made at the reader's discretion alone. Blessed be the memory of Tamar Golan, a friend of Africa and a Machsom Watch volunteer.
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