Netanyahu - Emil Salman - Feb. 16, 2011
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Feb. 16, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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At the end of last week, it seemed the changes taking place in the Middle East and the growing international pressure to set the diplomatic process in motion had not gone unnoticed by the prime minister. At a meeting of Likud's Knesset faction, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism because of the slackening pace of construction in the settlements.

Sources say he declared in closed meetings that a binational state would be "a disaster for Israel" and that, to prevent this, he was putting together a diplomatic plan that would break through the stalemate in the negotiations. He went so far as to promise the German chancellor that he would shortly present his plan in a "Bar-Ilan speech 2" on the peace process.

It now appears that the hope that Netanyahu understands that the foot-dragging on the Palestinian track is not serving Israeli interests has been exaggerated. During a news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Netanyahu once gain put the responsibility for the diplomatic deadlock on the Palestinians. He claimed that Israel had taken numerous steps to further peace and was ready to compromise, while the Palestinians were pinning their hopes on an agreement that the international community would force on the two sides.

It's not clear what Netanyahu means by "numerous steps to further peace." Is he referring to his refusal to freeze construction in the settlements during the negotiations on their fate? Or to his opposition to renewing the talks from where they left off during the previous government's tenure, or to the basis of the 1967 borders? Or maybe to his repeated demand that Palestine should be the only Arab country that must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?

According to stubborn rumors (that have not been denied ), the "compromises" that Netanyahu mentioned two days ago refer to a plan that basically calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on around 50 percent of the West Bank. The agreement on permanent borders, the arrangements in East Jerusalem, and the refugee problem would be put off until an unknown date. The Palestinian leaders have once again rejected this plan, basing their argument on the road map and the Annapolis Declaration, which stated that the negotiations would lead to the end of the occupation that began in 1967. These plans also presented a timetable for realizing a final-status solution.

Flowery speeches and pushing responsibility onto others are no alternative to serious and courageous diplomatic action. If Netanyahu doesn't have the power to prevent the "disaster," as he phrased it, he must hand his mandate back to the people.