Netanyahu seeks to deflect Quartet criticism with gestures to Palestinians
Gestures are expected to consist of easing the blockade on Gaza, removing roadblocks in the West Bank and enabling the PA to take over land required to build the new town Rawabi.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to propose several confidence-building measures to the Palestinian Authority in a bid to moderate a Quartet statement castigating Israel.
The statement by the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators − the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia − is expected next week. Foreign Ministry officials said the group, which is due to meet in Munich on February 5 to discuss the stalemate in the peace talks, is expected to denounce Israel for the construction in West Bank settlements.
Israel’s forum of seven senior ministers discussed the proposed gestures to the Palestinians this week. Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and minister Dan Meridor supported the gestures, while ministers Benny Begin, Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai objected.
The gestures are expected to consist of easing the blockade on Gaza, removing roadblocks in the West Bank and enabling the PA to take over land required to build the new town Rawabi.
Israel will also approve a number of infrastructure projects advanced by Quartet envoy Tony Blair in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sources close to the prime minister confirmed that Netanyahu was putting together a package of gestures ahead of the Quartet’s meeting but declined to give details.
Netanyahu began discussing the proposals with Blair around three weeks ago. Blair, who visited Israel this week and met with Netanyahu, Barak and Shalom, urged the prime minister to publish details of the gestures before the Quartet’s meeting.
Due to its difficult international situation, Israel must do something, Blair says.
The American, Russian and European Union’s foreign ministers are to take part in the Quartet’s meeting in Munich to discuss the complete standstill in the peace talks. The talks would also touch on the U.S. administration’s apparent confusion about a solution to the crisis.
The Quartet’s closing statement is expected to support the World Bank’s prediction that the PA will complete setting up institutions in the coming months to enable it to establish a state.
The Americans have indicated to the European Union that they would not object to an especially harsh statement if the Europeans were the ones behind it, Jerusalem officials said.
Israel hopes the gestures would also encourage the Palestinians to reconsider their refusal to negotiate with Israel.
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