Tensions simmer in Israel coalition over possible Palestine talks

Washington hopes to host Israeli and Palestinian negotiators within a week.


Reuters July 21, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tentative agreement to revive US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians met scepticism and scorn on Sunday from some members of his rightist coalition government, including within his own party.

With no date yet set for negotiations to begin, let alone a public blueprint for their terms, Netanyahu did not yet appear at risk of a political crisis.

Rare praise for him from the centre-left opposition suggested they were willing to replace any nationalist allies he might lose over a future peace accord.

Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been tight-lipped about the prospective talks, in keeping with the discretion requested by US Secretary John Kerry, who announced the breakthrough on Friday after months of intensive mediation.

Washington hopes to host Israeli and Palestinian negotiators within a week for the launch of "final-status" talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state, in territories the latter captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

But Netanyahu's partner in the ruling Likud Beitenu faction, Avigdor Lieberman, ridiculed the idea that anything more than an interim accord might be achieved in the decades-old conflict.

"It's important to negotiate, and even more important for negotiations to be predicated on realism and not illusions," Lieberman wrote on Facebook.

"There is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least not in the coming years, and what's possible and important to do is conflict-management."

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz of Likud mocked Abbas, whose US-backed administration holds limited sway in the occupied West Bank while the Palestinian enclave of Gaza is controlled by Hamas rivals opposed to co-existence with Israel.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) rules over Palestinians less than (President Bashar) Assad rules in Syria," Katz told reporters, referring to the more than two-year-old militant-let insurgency wracking Damascus, another enemy of the Jewish state.

"Just as no one would consider ceding any territory to Assad in the current situation, so certainly no one is thinking seriously of ceding territory to Abu Mazen at time when he doesn't completely rule over most of the Palestinian population."

Israel said on Saturday, however, that it would meet Abbas's call to free scores of Palestinian prisoners held since before the sides began diplomatic contacts in 1993.

Negotiations have waxed and waned since, last breaking down in late 2010 when an Israeli moratorum on settlement construction in occupied territory expired.

 

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