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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs