Monday, 7 March 2011
Ministers push Israel PM over new peace plan
Top Israeli ministers on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to swiftly make public details of his new diplomatic initiative in a bid to end the Jewish state's increasing isolation.Skip related content
Over the past week, the Israeli press has been filled with reports about Netanyahu's new plan to establish a Palestinian state within provisional borders as part of "a long-term interim agreement" -- details of which were expected to be announced during a trip to Washington in May.
But Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Monday urged Netanyahu to move faster in a bid "to move Israel out of its isolation."
"Such a decision must be taken in the coming weeks, not the coming months. A declaration before the Congress in May would be far too late," he told public radio.
"The world will not accept that we continue to rule over another people after 43 years," he said in reference to Israel's occupation of land it captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
Earlier, public radio quoted sources in Netanyahu's office as saying the premier was trying to bring forward his US trip and travel to Washington in the coming weeks where he would present his new initiative in a speech to the US Congress.
Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor -- who, like Barak, is also part of Netanyahu's inner circle of seven -- said that if Israel did not move quickly, the world would soon recognise a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.
"We have to be proactive before calamity hits, before we are isolated," he told army radio.
"We must define our goal quickly. There is a danger that if we leave things unclear we will reach a situation that we?ve seen recently at the UN Security Council," he said of a Palestinian attempt last month to push through an anti-settlement resolution at the UN Security Council.
The resolution, which condemned Israel's policy of building on land occupied in 1967, was supported by 14 out of 15 Council members, but stopped in its tracks after the United States cast a deeply unpopular veto.
"It will all suffer the same fate -- the Jewish Quarter together with Elon Moreh and Bracha," Meridor said, comparing the Jewish part of Jerusalem's Old City with two West Bank settlements.
Under international law, all three are considered to be illegally occupied, but the Jewish Quarter is widely expected to stay under Israeli sovereignty in any peace deal rather than the other two which are considered politically expendable.
But Netanyahu's plan stands little chance of being accepted by the Palestinians who have always rejected the notion of any interim deal or any agreement that does not include permanent resolution of final status issues such as Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees.
Israel has come under increasing pressure in recent months over the stalled direct peace talks, which ground to a halt shortly after being relaunched by Washington in September 2010 over the issue of settlement construction.
A limited Israeli moratorium on settlement building expired shortly after the talks began, with Netanyahu refusing to renew the ban and the Palestinians refusing to hold talks while Israeli builds on land it wants for a state.
The stalemate and Israel's continued settlement construction have angered many in the international community, resulting in near universal support for the Security Council's anti-settlement resolution.