YNet News (Link) - Yitzhak Benhorin (April 21, 2011)
The White House has been working on a new peace initiative for the past three months, one that revolves around a few key principles: A Palestinian state without the right of return, Jerusalem as the capital of both states, and an emphasis on Israel’s security needs.
According to an article published in the New York Times Thursday, the details of the proposal are yet to be hashed out.
Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office did not rush to respond to the NY Times report. Thursday evening, sources in Jerusalem said that Israel was not surprised by the American plan currently being worked out.
“Everyone knew something is being formulated in Washington,” one official said.
At this time it’s unclear whether Prime Minister Netanyahu was aware of the initiative and gave it his blessing. Some officials estimated that the Obama plan is meant to affect the PM’s upcoming speech, which is expected to feature Israel’s new peace initiative.
Though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last week that President Barack Obama will be “speaking in greater detail about America’s policy in the Middle East and North Africa in the coming weeks,” it is still unclear whether Obama will use the occasion to present a new peace plan.
An unnamed official told the Times that both Obama and Clinton are in favor of such move, while the president’s senior adviser on the Middle East, Dennis Ross, is against it.
According to the article, if Obama does, in fact, present a peace initiative, it will discuss four terms of reference: Israel’s acceptance of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders; Palestinian acceptance that there would be no right to return to Israeli land; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; and the protection of Israel’s security needs.
Race to restart talks
Meanwhile, the US government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in a race to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Some sources say that Netanyahu, who was invited to address a joint meeting of the US Congress, is considering the possibility of pre-empting Obama’s proposal with his own initiative in his upcoming speech.
However, the Times quotes two unnamed US officials as saying that Netanyahu would first introduce such peace deal at the Knesset. Sources close to Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the prime minister is mulling the option of presenting some elements of his Congress speech before the Knesset plenum next month.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul offered to serve as a mediator in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations Thursday morning. In an opinion piece published in the Times, Gul warned that considering the recent turmoil in the Middle East, “Israel cannot afford to be perceived as an apartheid island surrounded by an Arab sea of anger and hostility.”
Gul addressed the US involvement in the peace process, calling on the superpower to step up its efforts.
“The international community wants the United States to act as an impartial and effective mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, just as it did a decade ago,” Gul wrote. “Securing a lasting peace in the Middle East is the greatest favor Washington can do for Israel.” †