Last night Reuters reported a stunning development in Middle East Peace:
Israel has agreed to a proposed formula for new peace talks with the Palestinians under which the border of their future state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, but with agreed land swaps, an Israeli official said on Thursday.An Israeli contact informed said the report was probably a false leak planted either by the US State Department to put pressure on Israel (especially since an agreement to return to the armistice lines BEFORE negotiations begin would bring down Bibi's government) or possibly someone in Tzipi Livni's party (Livni is the ultimate liberal who believes in peace without much security)
The official said that, were the Palestinians to accept the formula, it would be announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who would also describe the future Palestine as existing alongside a “Jewish state” of Israel. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment.
Proving the point both sides (and Kerry) have released statements calling the report false.
Almost immediately Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu, called Reuters and said "the report is untrue." Reuters claims the report came from an Israeli source but they have been known to "doctor" Mid East news (remember the faked war pictures during the Lebanon War).
It has always been Netanyahu's contention that the 1949 armistice lines will not be discussed until the Palestinians agree to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. The Palestinian side has never agreed to that point.
Regev's call was followed by a statement from Naftali Bennett, who made clear that his party will not be a partner in a government that holds diplomatic negotiations based on the idea of returning to Israel's pre-1967 borders.
"The Bayit Yehudi party [12 of the 68 seats the government controls out of the 120 seat Knesset], which I head, will not be a partner, even for one second, in a government that agrees to negotiate based on [pre-]'67 lines,” he stated. “Our capital, Jerusalem, is not up for negotiations and will never be up for negotiations.”The Palestinians are also not happy with the Wednesday evening report. Fatah officials demanded on Thursday that changes be made to Kerry's proposals peace plan, following a meeting in Ramallah.
"Fatah wants to make some alterations to Kerry's plan... because the proposed ideas are not encouraging for a return to negotiations," a top official from Fatah said.Another indication that reports of an Israeli agreement are bogus.
When dealing with the Middle East, the first rule is--one must be very, very careful not to believe initial reports. The peace process is filled with examples of untrue leaks and stories for one side to gain and advantage over the other, or one political party over another, or simply false hope. A corollary to this rule is never believe what President Shimon Peres says. This is not the American Presidency--the Israeli president little beyond ceremonial power.
A second rule is when initial reports are released wait to see the fine print and details to discover what really happened. Remember when Jimmy Carter came back from meeting with Hamas declaring that they were ready to recognize Israel? About 15 minutes later the terrorist group issued as statement, basically wondering of the peanut president was smoking crack. Its not that simple--and even good people tell falsehoods not because of intent but because they desperately want to create peace and their hearts overrule their heads.
When considering Mid East news you must also evaluate the political positions of each party. Abbas like Arafat before him leads a party that has NEVER (allow me to say it again) NEVER recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish or any other kind of state. His party's constitution still calls for the destruction of the Zionist State.
That does not mean they will never be able to make peace, but it does mean that it will not happen anytime soon. Every day on Palestinian TV and in their schools and newspapers the populace are taught that Jews in general are the spawn of the devil and they are ordered by Allah to destroy the evil Jews. Can one really expect that all of a sudden Abbas is going to wake up and say "hey we changed our minds they aren't too bad?" Not unless he wants to be physically torn from limb to limb.
While Netanyahu is not facing a crowd that will dismember him, he is facing a suspicious coalition and people. Bibi wants to stay in power. Its is quite possible for him to make the steps necessary to make peace there are two things that will not happen in the short term. One is to BEGIN negotiations with a commitment to return to the armistice lines. The other is to agree to give up East Jerusalem. There may be a concession to give up a slice of the Holy City but the Temple Mount and other Jewish holy sites aren't going anywhere yet. Those concessions would be political suicide.
The Reuters report simply made no sense.