The Israeli media has been abuzz about a secret initiative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly planning to unveil in May should the Palestinians continue to refuse to negotiate a bilateral peace. Israelis have heard this sort of thing before, and are justifiably concerned.
Netanyahu himself has not spoken directly about a new diplomatic plan, but has indicated that if the Palestinians continue to make excuses to not negotiate, Israel must be ready to initiate a unilateral plan of its own, in order to avoid an internationally-imposed resolution to the conflict.
While such an Israeli initiative would likely fall well short of what the Palestinians are demanding, it could also lay the groundwork for increased international pressure and hostility on Israel, even as Israelis are promised that their “sacrifices” will give the Jewish state the upper hand.
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to a similar decision, and made similar promises to Israeli before unilaterally surrendering the Gaza Strip and uprooting every Jew living there. But far from convincing the world that Israel is the party truly interested in peace, leaving Gaza has made the territory more of a thorn in Israel’s side than ever it was.
Members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party are hoping he is not foolish enough to try the same thing in Judea and Samaria, and that Gaza has proven to him that merely “disengaging” from the Palestinians will not satisfy the Arabs or the international community.
Pressure is mounting on Netanyahu from within the Likud to be more transparent about what he is planning, but the prime minister has been conspicuously quiet of late. He cancelled a meeting with Likud ministers on Sunday, and has not convened his inner cabinet in several weeks.
The only person Netanyahu is apparently working with is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who on Monday told Israel Radio that he is urning the prime minister to come forward with and implement his plan much sooner than May.
“This is the time to take risks in order to prevent international isolation,” said Barak. “This is the time for leadership. We have no choice, we need to separate from the Palestinians for our own interests.”