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Monday, February 20, 2012

Netanyahu's peace plan similar to Livni's (Ha'aretz)

Ha'aretz has a behind-the-scenes look at the last, failed round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO in Amman, and it shows yet again that the Palestinian Arabs are the recalcitrant party.

More surprising to the conventional wisdom, though, is that Netanyahu seemed to offer a plan that was nearly identical to that offered by the Kadima government during the 2008 Annapolis conference.

At first, the Palestinian Arabs refused to meet altogether:
According to a top Israeli official, on the day of the meeting, the prime minister’s envoy, Isaac Molho, arrived at the hotel and entered the meeting room only to discover that his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, did not make it to the meeting. Mohammad Shtayyeh, a junior official and member of Fatah’s central committee was sent in his stead. The Palestinian side did not agree to sit with Molho in the same room, and the envoys were resigned to hopping between different rooms in the hotel in order to hold discussions between the two sides.

After a week, the Quartet envoys arrived in Jerusalem, although the Palestinians refused once more to sit in the same room as Molho. “There is an empty chair in the room,” said Molho to the envoys at the meeting. “Where is Saeb Erekat?”

For over a month, the Quartet envoys attempted to bring the Palestinians to the negotiation room, but only when King Abdullah II began to apply pressure did things begin to move. The king came to Ramallah on a rare trip and pressured Mahmoud Abbas. Finally, on January 3, the Jordanians were able to bring together Erekat and Molho in Jordan’s Foreign Ministry in Amman.
Jordan's King Abdullah personally went to Ramallah to pressure Abbas to take things seriously, and Erekat showed up. But this was all for show.

At the very first meeting on January 3, Erekat announced that the PLO held by the deadline of January 26 to complete negotiations, an impossible task.

The PLO position on borders were "a step backward" from their proposals in Annapolis in 2008, according to Israel's negotiator Isaac Molho.

There were a couple of other meetings where new demands were made by Erekat, such as the release of Aziz Dweik, a Hamas minister.

On January 25, a day before the PLO's deadline on negotiations, Molho presented Netanyahu's proposal for borders:
1. The border will be drawn in a way that will include the maximum amount of Israelis living in the West Bank, and the minimum amount of Palestinians.

2. Israel will annex the large settlement blocs, without defining what exactly is considered a ‘bloc,’ nor defining its size.

3. It is necessary to first solve the problem of borders and security in relation to Judea and Samaria, and only afterwards move to discuss the topic of Jerusalem which is far more complicated.

4. Israel will maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of time. Molho did not mention how long nor what kind of presence.

During the meeting, Erekat asked for clarification regarding the Jordan Valley. Molho referred him to Netanyahu’s speech’s to the opening session of the Knesset, as well as to that in front of Congress in May 2011. In both speeches, Netanyahu spoke of a “military presence along the Jordan River,” yet he did not demand that Israel maintain sovereignty over the valley. “And if we refuse?” Erekat asked. Molho responded: You would prefer that we annex the valley?”

Molho did not mention how size of the territory from which Israel will withdraw, but according to the principles he presented, it seems that it is similar, if not identical to that which was presented by Tzipi Livni during the negotiations that took place in 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. And although Netanyahu does not admit it, the meaning behind the principles Molho presented is a withdrawal that will cause Israel to give up 90% of its sovereignty. “The possibility of leaving the settlements in a Palestinian state also came up in Annapolis,” said a source that participated in the 2008 talks.

Erekat, who understood the principles, asked at the end of the meetings for a series of clarifications: whether Israel accepts the 1967 borders as a basic tenet upon which the two sides can negotiation, whether Israel accepts the principle of territory swaps, how many percentages of the West Bank is Israel interested in annexing, whether Israel has a map with border proposals, whether Israel is willing to evacuate settlements, etc.

“I’d be happy to answer all these questions in the next meeting,” said Molho to Erekat. But the next meeting never took place. A day later, the Palestinians said that they will not resume talks unless Israel freezes settlement building and accepts the principle of 1967 borders.
As usual, the conventional wisdom on the conflict is 180 degrees away from the truth. The "hawkish" Netanyahu is willing to concede essentially everything that the "dovish" Livni would have, and the "moderate" Palestinian Arab side spent the entire time treading water until their deadline passed and they could move forward with their unity agreement with terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

It must be pointed out that all of the people who so loudly assert that Israel's democratic character is threatened by the lack of an agreement for a two-state solution have never once satisfactorily explained why a plan such as Livni's or Netanyahu's does not address every one of their concerns, especially the demographic issue. Instead of pushing for the PLO to compromise on the basis of a plan where Israel can have a modicum of security, these loudmouths like J-Street and Peter Beinart instead pretend that it is Israel that must keep offering more and more, and end up solidifying the PLO's hard-line positions.

Which proves that for all their protestations, they aren't really pro-Israel at all.

(h/t P.)