News / Middle East

Peace Debate Exposes Deep Rifts in Israeli Government

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Hatenuah party, during their joint statement at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, February 19, 2013.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Hatenuah party, during their joint statement at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, February 19, 2013.
Reuters
Israel's coalition government presented a divided front on Palestinian statehood on Tuesday as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepared a new mission to revive long-defunct peace talks.
 
Appearing before a parliamentary committee, Israeli chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni outlined a vision she said she shared with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an end to the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians.
 
“My policy and that of the prime minister is that a solution of two states for two peoples must be achieved,” said Livni, who heads a small centrist party in the governing coalition.
 
Far-right members of the government were having none of it, in a rare public clash of ideologies between political allies in Netanyahu's administration since it took office in March.
 
“Two states for two peoples might be Netanyahu's position, but it is not the official government position. It is not part of its basic guidelines,” Orit Struck of the Bayit Yehudi party said at the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee session.
 
The party's leader, Naftali Bennett, repeatedly voiced his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying it would ultimately be ruled by Muslim militants’ intent on destroying Israel.
 
Instead, the former Jewish settlement leader said, Israel should annex much of the West Bank, which it captured in the 1967 Middle East war along with East Jerusalem and Gaza.
 
Bennett took his party into Netanyahu's government and has not publicly raised objections to restarting peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement building - suggesting he did not have to because they stood no chance of success.
 
“It is our land,” Struck said of the West Bank, claiming an area many Israelis call by its Biblical name, Judea and Samaria.
 
“It is our land but the question is whether [Israel] stays our state or not,” Livni replied, in a nod to what some advocates of a land-for-peace accord fear would be the loss of Israel's Jewish majority if it holds on to the West Bank.
 
Such divisions within the coalition herald political trouble for Netanyahu should U.S. peace efforts make progress. The leader of Israel's main opposition Labor Party has already pledged to support him to offset any defections by hardliners if he clinches a deal with the Palestinians.
 
Palestinian state
 
Netanyahu has voiced support for establishing a Palestinian state next to Israel under a future peace deal, but has said it must be demilitarized and that there can be no Israeli return to pre-1967 war lines, which he has called indefensible.
 
In addition, he has demanded that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a condition they fear would be tantamount to waiving any right of return of Palestinian refugees, a main issue of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
 
Kerry was due to arrive in Israel on Thursday, on his fourth visit as secretary of state, for further talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on getting negotiations under way.
 
Silvan Shalom, Israel's minister for regional cooperation and a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, said the idea is to go together to announce the resumption of negotiations without precondition.
 
“We are awaiting an answer from the Palestinians. Are they willing or not to resume negotiations? The ball is in their court,” Shalom told Reuters.
 
Speaking to a U.N. committee in New York on Monday, the top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said: “Make no mistake, we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds.”
 
Kerry telephoned Netanyahu last week to voice U.S. concern at Israel's plan to declare legal four unauthorized West Bank settler outposts, a U.S. official said in Muscat on Tuesday.
 
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, gave no details about the call, triggered by a court document in which Israel said it had taken steps in recent weeks to retroactively authorize the four outposts built without official permission.
 
Most of the world deems all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Israel disputes this and distinguishes between about 120 government-authorized settlements and dozens of outposts built by settlers without official sanction.
 
The main issues that would have to be resolved in a peace agreement include the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, the future of Jewish settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
 
Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. About 2.7 million Palestinians live in those areas.

You May Like

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid