Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Political Obstacle Course on Road to Peace Talks

Fiercest Opponents Are Inside Coalition — and Own Party

getty images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published July 25, 2013, issue of August 02, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It was on a Friday evening, July 19, that Secretary of State John Kerry announced the upcoming resumption of Israel-Palestinian peace talks after a three-year freeze. There were no preconditions announced. Kerry had met Palestinian demands by giving his own promise — in writing, Palestinian officials said — that negotiations would be based on Israel’s pre-1967 armistice lines and Israel would freeze new settlement construction.

On Sunday, Palestinian Authority spokesman Yasser Abed Rabbo backtracked and demanded that Israel openly agree to the 1967 baseline, something Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has consistently refused to do.

Palestinian officials didn’t rule out Kerry’s planned meeting in Washington between Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni. But now the Palestinians said the meeting wouldn’t be the start of a peace negotiation. It would merely be an exploratory session to try and define the terms for negotiations — terms that seemed as out of reach as ever after Abed Rabbo’s statement.

The question is, what happened between Friday and Sunday to turn the Palestinian “yes” into a “no”?

Nothing is ever certain in Middle East diplomacy, and Abed Rabbo’s objections may dissolve once Erekat and Livni sit together. But a flurry of events took place Saturday evening in Jerusalem that complicated Kerry’s plans.

Kerry’s promises to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas were based on understandings he’d reached after hours of discussions with Netanyahu. If the secretary of state did indeed commit to the 1967 borders-with-swaps formula and a settlement freeze, it means Netanyahu indicated he could live with that, even though saying it aloud would collapse his coalition.

On Saturday night, though, one of Netanyahu’s key coalition partners, economy and commerce minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, said his party would “insist” on continuing settlement construction during negotiations. He also reiterated his threat to bolt the coalition if Netanyahu agreed to negotiations based on the 1967 lines.

Also speaking out against Kerry’s terms Saturday night was Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon. In addition to rejecting any withdrawal of settlers, he condemned release of Palestinian prisoners, which Netanyahu had embraced as step toward renewing talks.

Others in Netanyahu’s circle spoke similarly, including influential Likud lawmakers Miri Regev and Yariv Levin. By Sunday morning, the Palestinians were suspecting that Kerry might have promised more than he could deliver.

Danon was a key figure. He chairs the Likud central committee, which puts him in prime position to constrict Netanyahu’s moves. If Danon decided to fully mobilize his troops, he could force Netanyahu into the choice Ariel Sharon faced after the Likud rejected his Gaza disengagement plan in 2005: abandon his plan or leave the Likud. Sharon left the Likud and took 14 of its 38 lawmakers with him to form Kadima. Netanyahu’s current Likud only holds 21 seats. It’s not clear how many would follow him if he decided to buck a party decision against peace talks.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.