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Posted on on July 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Netanyahu the Peacemaker

By ROGER COHEN, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist
Published: July 29, 2013 – 9 Comments…

Jimmy Carter, as he pointed out in London a few days ago, dealt with a right-wing former terrorist and “the last person you would expect to make peace” in reaching the 1978 Camp David Accords that ended the conflict between Israel and Egypt.

Related News: Israel and Palestinians Set to Resume Peace Talks, U.S. Announces (July 29, 2013)
Netanyahu Agrees to Free 104 Palestinians (July 28, 2013)

The man in question was the former Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, who noted in his memoir “The Revolt,” that he was known as “Terrorist Number One” in Britain as he led the fight to end British rule of Mandate Palestine and establish a Jewish state.

Begin acknowledges that he was driven by hatred of British rule. “We had to hate the humiliating disgrace of the homelessness of our people,” he wrote, adding that, “We had to hate the barring of the gates of our own country to our own brethren, trampled and bleeding and crying out for help in a world morally deaf.”

Yet, three decades after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Begin the warrior — a man as responsible as any other for the transformation of the meek, acquiescent Jew of the diaspora who went head bowed to the Nazi gas into a fighter — chose to set hatred aside to trade land for lasting peace.

Carter’s conclusion is that Benjamin Netanyahu, a hawk raised on the ethos of Begin (Israel’s first right-wing prime minister), may also want to go down as the “historic hero” who brought peace.

“I don’t see anyone else” in Israel “as a possible peacemaker,” the former U.S. president, who had just been briefed by Secretary of State John Kerry on his diplomatic initiative, observed.

The notion that Netanyahu the Likudnik — fierce opponent of the late Yitzhak Rabin’s peace push, reluctant latecomer to the notion of two states, longtime ideologue of the Jewish right to all the Biblical land of Israel — might reinvent himself as peacemaker is not new. I have heard it from several people who have spent long hours with Netanyahu, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Skepticism is de rigueur, but it would be wrong to dismiss the idea. Never give an inch was Begin’s fierce creed forged in European persecution — and yet. The controversial release of 104 Palestinians is not the action of an Israeli prime minister unserious about final-status negotiations. Carter said, “I think this concept that John Kerry has pursued now secretly, very secretly for five months, I think it has much more chance of success than I had believed before we met with him.”

Kerry’s work up to now has been impressive: the doggedness, that very secrecy (necessary to diplomacy but harder than ever to achieve), the choreography (pluck the interlocutors out of the region to begin talks in Washington), the orchestration (involvement of the Arab League, appeals to major U.S. Jewish groups).

The context of his work looks adverse — but perhaps not. Next to Syria’s implosion and Egypt’s secular-religious fracture, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an old, tired issue: Its protagonists weary of it, the outline of its resolution well known, the futility of its perpetuation evident. My sense is that even the Arabs who are long used the Palestinian issue as a diversion from their core problems are sick of it. They see the conflict as an impediment to growth and an ideological distraction (rather than serviceable tool). There is more heat right now to Sunni-Shiite than Palestinian-Israeli enmity.

Carter said a resolution should be based on the 1967 borders, “with one exception — that is that there can be land swaps very near Jerusalem for the major Israeli settlements, and acre by acre or hectare by hectare the land that’s given by the Palestinians to Israel for these major settlements will be repaid to the Palestinians on an equal basis.”

He said Palestinian return would have to be to the West Bank or Gaza — “unless it’s a few dozen or something like that” to Israel. He said, “I have met many, many hours with Hamas leaders, and they have assured me for a long time that they will accept any negotiation that is successful between the P.L.O. and Israel if it is put to the Palestinian people in a referendum.”

Yes, the outline of the only possible resolution is well known. (Jerusalem will require immense creativity.) The dire alternative is also well known. At times the conflict comes close to self-parody, being so thrashed to death. Could it be that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are unready to be fooled again?

Begin also wrote: “We had to hate — as any nation worthy of the name must and always will hate — the rule of the foreigner.” He wrote: “If you love your country, you cannot but hate those who seek to annex it.”

Netanyahu should read those words carefully. He might find in them the decisive spur to a resolution that grants Palestinians a state in peace and security beside Israel. It is hard for him: Sinai, unlike the West Bank, was not part of Eretz Israel — land Begin believed was “our natural and eternal right.”

Hard, yes, but no harder than for Begin the bomb maker to become Begin the peacemaker.


Following 3-year deadlock || Israeli-Palestinian peace talks kick off with Iftar dinner at State Department
The negotiating teams have traditional feast to break Ramadan fast, while discussing agenda for 9-month-long negotiations; Abbas: Not a single Israeli in future Palestinian state.

By Barak Ravid and Reuters | Jul. 30, 2013 | 5:17 AM – HAARETZ

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams arrived at the State Department building in Washington Monday night after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set the wheels in motion for the first direct peace talks in almost three years.

The negotiating teams began talks over the traditional Iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast, hosted at the State Department building by Kerry. He will give the first press conference on renewed negotiations on Tuesday at 6:00 P.M. local time.

The Iftar dinner was relatively informal and was intended primarily to establish a friendly atmosphere. However, a senior Israeli official noted that the parties would begin discussing the agenda for negotiations during dinner.

During a press conference earlier Monday, Kerry lauded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, for their efforts to move the process forward.

Speaking from Cairo where he was meeting with Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, Abbas said that no Israeli settlers or border forces could remain in a future Palestinian state and that Palestinians deem illegal all Jewish settlement building beyond the Green Line.

“In a final solution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” Abbas said in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists” .An international, multinational presence like in Sinai, Lebanon and Syria – we are with that,” he said, referring to United Nations peacekeeping operations in those places

Before heading to Washington, Livni told the Associated Press that “the idea is to start the negotiations today.”

“There is a lot of cynicism and skepticism and pessimism but there is also hope,” Livni said.”I believe that by relaunching the negotiations we can recreate hope fo rIsraelis and Palestinians as well.”

The delegations will meet with Kerry again Tuesday to continue talks on the issues up for discussion and a timetable for further meetings. At the end of the day, a joint press statement is expected to be read by the secretary of state, amrking the official start of negotiations.

Kerry also appointed former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk as Washington’s special Middle East peace envoy.

Both Netanyahu and Abbas approved of the choice of Indyk, whose appointment was revealed earlier this month. Indyk will accompany the peace talks as they progress, Kerry said on Monday, after officially introducing him as the new U.S. envoy, and naming adviser Frank Lowenstein as Indyk’s deputy.

“Indyk is realistic,” Kerry said. “He understands that peace will not come overnight but that there is a sense of urgency.”

Accepting the task, Indyk said, “Middle East peace is a daunting challenge but one that I can’t run away from.” He then added: “Peace is possible.”

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