Netanyahu Wary of New International Efforts in Peace Process

Prime minister has yet to say whether or not he will cooperate with an upcoming Quartet meeting with Israeli, Palestinian officials, fearing Israel's participation could allow world to dictate peace-talks terms.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Four days before Mideast Quartet officials are planned to meet Israeli and Palestinian representatives, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still hasn't decided whether or not he will be sending his adviser and peace-talks representative Yitzhak Molcho.

The forum of seven senior ministers will be meeting this Tuesday to reach a decision on the matter.

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaking as he chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.Credit: AP

Over the weekend, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, announced that Quartet representatives would hold separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials later in the week in Brussels.

The goal of the meeting is to hear the sides' stances on core peace-talk issues, as well as to attempt to come to an agreement regarding the negotiations' resumption.

However, Netanyahu has voiced his reservations to the meeting, fearing that by agreeing he would open the door to international influence on the terms of the renewed talks. Specifically, the premier is worried of being forced to resume talks toward a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Netanyahu is concerned of the possibility that an announcement would come out of the foreign ministers' Quartet summit, planned to take place in Paris in two-weeks time, where potential solutions to the core peace issues would be presented.

Consequently, Netanyahu is still on the fence on whether or not to go along with process.

Tony Blair, the Quartet's Mideast envoy, arrived at the region on Sunday, and met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. On Monday, he is scheduled to meet Netanyahu in an attempt to sway the premier to send Molcho to the meeting.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office indicated that Netanyahu had been in contact with the U.S. administration in an attempt to find out the purpose of the Brussels session, and its purported goals, before making his final decision.

The move spearheaded by Quartet members – Russia and the European Union, specifically – is another part of the intense international pressure brought to bare on Netanyahu in wake of the recent standstill in peace talks.

For a while now, the premier has been trying to fend off these attempts, while failing to offer an alternative diplomatic proposal, other than the general statement released by Haaretz on Friday, according to which he was preparing a policy speech, akin to the one he gave at Bar-Ilan University in 2009.

Netanyahu is said to be very frustrated both by the lack of diplomatic policy and from the continuous drop he has been experiencing in opinion polls. That jumpiness was demonstrated in the Likud ministers' meeting, and later at the weekly cabinet meeting, where he chastised ministers, later calling them to give media interviews where they would spell out the governments' achievements.

"This government is accomplishing things that previous governments did not, but a distorted picture of inactivity is being presented," Netanyahu said, telling ministers to "start presenting those achievements to the public. He repeated that request at least three times during the cabinet meeting.



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