President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, after several days of evaluating the chances of re-igniting Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations, have decided to distance themselves for the time being from the process until the two leaders, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, find their own way back to the table.
This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s sources.
Kerry describes the US approach for now as “a light touch,” while counting on Netanyahu and chief negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to bring Abbas around.
The administration’s offer is still standing to free the long-serving Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in the interests of facilitating a deal for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners jailed for terrorism.
The US was cheered by Abbas’s approach to the Israeli prime minister’s office Sunday, April 13, to say he is willing to resume negotiations, and the new proposal our sources report that Livni will put before the Palestinians when the two teams meet Sunday night.
Israel now agrees to release 420 imprisoned terrorists. It will also accept the inclusion of the contested 14 Israeli Arabs, contingent on their deportation from the country. They will also be stripped of their citizenship.
Abbas has rejected this stipulation. But Netanyahu and Livni insist that the Palestinian leader has no standing in the way Israel treats its nationals or any right to interfere in its conditions for citizenship.
As for the sanctions imposed on the Palestinians for applying to 15 UN agencies for membership, Israel will agree to suspend the freeze on the transfer of $115 million per month of tax deductions, but also demand that the Palestinians suspend seven of those applications and guarantee to halt all unilateral moves for gaining international recognition.
Informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem are not yet ready to dismiss the speculation heard this week in Jerusalem of a looming government crisis and early election, sparked by the Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s threat to take his pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party out of the government if Israeli Arab terrorists are released.
Netanyahu sees no reason for a government break-up, nor does he seek an early election. Finance Minister Yair Lapid would certainly not wish his Future party to face the voter without an upturn in his falling rating, any more than Livni, whose tiny party’s fate depends on her success as a peace negotiator.
Both the Likud and Jewish Home are gaining support according to updated opinion polls and have less to fear from an early poll..Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in New York last week that he would rather see an early election than accept the US framework deal for a deal with the Palestinians.
But that may just be bravado. In the last election, his party ran on a joint list with the prime minister’s Likud. Next time, his party faces the voter on its own and that could be a gamble.
Moshe Kachlon, the popular former communications minister who quit the government – though not Likud – after falling out with the prime minister, may move to the front line as a dark horse if the government does fall. He is already much in demand in various insider political circles.