Attila Somfalvi
April 13, 2011 - 12:00am,7340,L-4056142,00.html

Israeli state officials estimated Wednesday that the US decision to postpone a European initiative to set parameters for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will involve a price to be paid by Benjamin Netanyahu. "The prime minister will be forced to outline his plans in a clear manner," one state official said.

Israel has been working to prevent UN support in a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, however efforts to block endorsement have thus far failed. State officials now believe such efforts are futile, particularly in regards to the General Assembly.

An Israeli official said: "Obama wants a Palestinian state and although the US is not interested in a unilateral declaration, it would be hard for it to stand alone in the General Assembly and vote against it."

In fact, many state officials believe Israel has failed on the UN front. "The fact that the Americans stopped the Quartet's plan only proves how deeply we depend on them," one official said. "But this hold-up will not change matters in the General Assembly and this is a trend we cannot change."

State officials stated that the US has decided to step in order to take control of the situation and achieve progress. "The Europeans couldn't get the Palestinians to the negotiating table, the Americans want to control matters and set the agenda."

According to officials, efforts to form an Israeli peace plan will be set into motion in the coming weeks, however it does not appear Netanyahu has any prepared document. He is reviewing various plans and proposals by political elements including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and MK Shaul Mofaz.

"Until Netanyahu visits the US in May, US pressure will grow. They want to see a plan with clear details and timetables. The fact that they decided to intervene is a clear message to Netanyahu and Israel."

Obama wants Netanyahu to publically declare he is willing to renew peace talks based on withdrawal to 1967 borders.

Unilateral steps?

A security official discussed the Israeli options and said: "It's all very unclear now, including talks of redeployment of IDF forces in the West Bank and handing over more responsibility to the Palestinian Authority."

The redeployment route has been tossed around for months now. It was raised during US-Israel talks as a possible gesture on behalf of Israel to help renew peace negotiations.

However, the issue has yet to be properly addressed due to its political and security sensitivity. All this despite the fact that the IDF has contingency plans stored away suggesting ways to hand over more responsibility to the PA.

When peace talks came to a halt several months ago, the forum of seven ministers addressed the possibility of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. However, the option was never discussed publically "so as to allow the Americans to exhaust all other possibilities of renewing peace talks."

The idea will likely be reviewed again ahead of the September UN meeting.


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