Did you know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just welcomed a diplomatic plan that posits the borders of June 4, 1967, as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians, along with mutual and consensual territorial exchanges? Did you hear that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) welcomed the demand to freeze construction beyond the Green Line entirely, including in East Jerusalem? Were you told that Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) welcomes the demand for the immediate dismantling of all the outposts built in the past decade? Has anyone told you that Ministers Eli Yishai (Shas) and Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) have given their blessing to negotiations on the status of the holy places in our united capital?
And that's not all. All the leaders of the coalition, without exception, have just now informed the entire world, and the entire Jewish people of course, that they recognize the importance of the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel normalization in return for withdrawal from all the territories, including the Golan Heights, and a fair and consensual solution of the refugee problem, on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
No, this is not the end-of-days vision of a delusionary defeatist. The exciting news is taken from the Israeli government website and from the official declaration of the Quartet from September 23. The website says that "Israel welcomes the call by the international Quartet to conduct preliminary, unconditional and direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority," and that it will raise its reservations during the course of the negotiations.
Let us examine what was said in that "call" that Israel "welcomed." Such an examination is apparently essential, since even Prof. Shlomo Avineri failed to get to the bottom of the "welcome" for the Quartet's declaration. Otherwise, he would not have presented the Quartet's plan as a "diplomatic achievement for Israel," which exposes the Palestinians as the "recalcitrant party" ("No realistic chance of permanent Middle East peace" - Haaretz, October 5 ).
The Quartet's declaration does indeed call on the parties to renew negotiations without preconditions - without preconditions, but with clear sources of authority, based on a series of declarations, decisions and international agreements. First, it says there that the Quartet ratifies its decision of May 20 this year, which includes clear support of the vision of peace presented by U.S. President Barack Obama. This is the decision that adopted Obama's May 19 speech, in which he called for the renewal of negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders, with mutual and consensual territorial swaps.
Later, the Quartet's "welcomed" announcement says that the international foursome confirms its determination to reach an overall solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on a series of UN Security Council resolutions. One of them - Resolution 1515 of November 2003 - adopted (and not only "welcomed") the Road Map peace plan.
We can assume that MK Benny Begin (Likud), who makes sure to read and warn about every dubious word in the speeches of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reminded his friends in the so-called forum of eight senior ministers that in the Road Map, Israel promised to freeze the settlements entirely, to dismantle the outposts, and to reopen the Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem - and all this on the way to an agreement that will end the occupation that began in 1967 and realize the two-state vision.
We are therefore left with the question: Who are they fooling? Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin, who declared that Jordan is Palestine, and MK Danny Danon (Likud), who declared that there is no room for two states between the sea and the Jordan? Or perhaps they are misleading U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who signed the Quartet's declaration?
If the members of the forum of eight have undergone a dramatic ideological upheaval, is it possible that they didn't tell the Knesset or, unfortunately, the government plenum? Perhaps they relied on the fact that the Palestinians would do the dirty work for them and reject the outline on the threshold of the negotiating room. After all, there are people who have already decided that the story is over and are accusing the Palestinians of causing the plan to fail.
Fortunately, Abbas announced to the European Council last Thursday the "positive stance" of the Palestinians regarding the Quartet's announcement. We can only hope that the Quartet will finally force Netanyahu to put his cards on the table.
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