Khaled Khalefe
March 14, 2011 - 12:00am

Local media have widely reported in recent weeks that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a policy speech and launch a new round of peace initiative in May, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress when he visits the long-time ally and major sponsor of the Mideast peace process.

Netanyahu's aids have started to prepare a draft for the speech. Mike Herzog and Ron Dermer, his two main political advisers, are taking part in these preparations. In addition, Yaakov Amidror has been appointed as the new national security adviser.

Netanyahu has not given any specific details about what kind of initiative he is considering. Local analysts see the possibility he declares his support for an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Eitan Haber, a security commentator from Tel-Aviv, argued that Netanyahu appointed the ultra-hawk national advisor Amidror because they share the same ideas and ideology. He is not expecting much from the Israeli prime minister's new initiative, Haber told Xinhua.

The columnist pointed out that he personally prefers that Netanyahu deliver the speech in Israel and to the Israeli public rather than in Washington.

Analysts who examined the leaks to the Israeli media from the Netanyahu's aids have reached the conclusion that it is too early to tell how far Netanyahu is ready to go beyond his current policy of maintaining the status quo. It is not clear what he will offer Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to convince him to stop pushing for his September deadline, when Abbas will ask the international community to genuinely support the declaration of an independence Palestinian state in the UN, a step that will isolate Israel and change the rules of the game.

Currently, the Palestinians are very skeptical regarding the upcoming Netanyahu speech. Ziad Abu Ziad, a commentator and former minister in the Palestinian National Authority, said that Netanyahu will propose transferring some territories, in addition to granting control and temporary borders to a provisional Palestinian state, thus recognizing this Palestinian entity without real and clear borders.

Abu Ziad reiterated that Netanyahu will then embark on endless negotiations, in which he will demand securing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and the Jordan Valley as its eastern defense border.

Haber dismissed the possibility that Netanyahu will have new ideas in any new initiative. He believes Netanyahu's main agenda is domestic, mainly to appeal to the right-center and to obtain their support for his leadership.

Azzam Alahmad, the head of the Fatah Parliamentary bloc, said that the idea of a Palestinian state with provisional borders has been floated before, and once again would be totally rejected.

"The Road Map from 2004 talked about a real state at the last stage. We have promises from the international system for creating a Palestinian state, he added. Netanyahu is not under international pressure but is trying to show that he is a man with a peaceful agenda," Azzam Alahmad said.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017