Yesterday’s vague dismissal of the “land-swap” peace proposal by the Arab League apparently didn’t get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly as far as he hoped toward quieting down the plan, and reports in the Israeli press now say Netanyahu is openly expressing concern to his aides the the US might be on board with the plan.
John Kerry touted the plan as a “big step forward,” which many thought initially was just the usual optimism of the US for anything related to the peace process, but now the fear among Netanyahu et al, who have been reluctant to engage in any peace talks that involve actual border discussions is that the US really does feel this way, and it’s going to be really ugly when Netanyahu has to more directly shoot it down.
“Netanyahu and his advisers believe it would have been better had this announcement not been made,” noted one source in Haaretz. The plan called for using the 1967 borders as a basis for peace, but with support for mutually acceptable land swaps therein, something the Arab League had previously not endorsed.
To make matters even more complicated for Netanyahu, he’s got Tzipi Livni, his Justice Minister that he promised would head the Israeli negotiations, taking off to the US to talk up the plan, which she has suggested she supports. With other members of Netanyahu’s coalition openly opposed to peace deals as a matter of religious principle (Naftali Bennett insisted that God wants Israel to keep the occupied territories in their entirety), this could set the stage for a major coalition crisis.
The last ditch effort to sabotage any deal before it gets off the ground would be an effort in Israel’s parliament to require any peace deal to be passed through a referendum before it is agreed to. In the past it has been suggested that the referendum requirement would essentially cripple their negotiating team, and polls showing broad ambivalence among Israeli voters about the peace process would mean the referendum would skew toward settlers hostile toward the idea.