|Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly Cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, March 8, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Gali Tibbon)|
Late last week, Yedioth Ahronoth published a story by journalist Nahum Barnea about what he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “concession document.” The document that he disclosed was a summary of the covert negotiations that Netanyahu conducted through his confidant, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ secret representative, Oxford professor Hussein Agha. It included a draft version of a statement of principles between Israel and the Palestinians, in the framework of which Israel would retreat to its 1967 borders (with territorial swaps) and an independent but demilitarized Palestinian state would be created. The document also stated that there would be recognition of the “special ties” that the Palestinian people have to Jerusalem, a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem would be “agreed on” by both parties and the Palestinians would gain a foothold in the Jordan Valley.
Summary⎙ Print Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personality allows him to promise things but not follow through, and at the end of the day, he will always return to his political base on the right.
Author Ben Caspit Posted March 10, 2015
As expected, the document spawned a fierce political storm. In these chaotic days, Netanyahu is fighting with whatever strength he has for the votes of his political base on the right. Toward that end, he has veered sharply, so much so in fact that just a few days ago, his campaign announced that his famous Bar Ilan speech, in which he recognized the two-state solution for the very first time, “is no longer relevant.” Now, with this document in Yedioth Ahronoth, the prime minister has been exposed in all his nakedness.
Netanyahu and the Likud vociferously denied the report. At a heavily covered March 9 press conference, Benny Begin (the son of late Prime Minister Menachem Begin), who rejoined the Likud list for the upcoming elections, called Barnea a liar. Netanyahu himself claimed that the document is just a draft prepared by the Americans, one that he was not really planning on accepting. He said that this paper never actually matured into an official document. Jerusalem will never be divided, he declared. The Jordan Valley will remain in our hands, there will be no right of return and in fact, there is nothing to talk about now and no one to talk with.
But the document is genuine. Those negotiations did take place, as first revealed by Amir Tivon of the Walla! website. The details remind me of my own reports during that same term, about a secret agreement that Netanyahu relayed to the Americans and the Europeans about the 1967 lines, as well as his own idea to leave settlements under Palestinian sovereignty upon achieving an agreement.
Furthermore, two days after the story broke, Raviv Drucker of Channel 10 reported that another of Netanyahu’s confidants, ambassador to Washington (now pariah) Ron Dermer, had written a document at the request of the Quartet’s emissary to the Middle East, Tony Blair. In that document, Netanyahu recognized the principle that a Palestinian state must rise on “territory equal in size to the territory that was in Palestinian hands in 1967.”
The second report stoked the fires already raging in Israel. Netanyahu is now fighting for his political life in a desperate battle against his decline. He knows that if he doesn’t come out of these elections with the Likud controlling more seats than the Zionist Camp, there is a chance that he will not form the next government, or that he will be forced to enter into a rotation agreement with Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog in which the two men split the term as prime minister. Right now, he is worried about the possibility beginning to show in the polls that the Likud will collapse in the final days leading up to the election, and that he will be defeated by Herzog or even by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. These circumstances leave him squabbling over every available seat on the right. He is forced to engage in the political cannibalization of HaBayit HaYehudi's Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Liberman to prove that he is further right than either of them. These most recent reports are dousing his fire with ice water.