According to the Prime Minister: " Israel wants to move forward in the negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the mutual honoring of commitments, and certainly not on the basis of Israel's unilaterally honoring its commitments, without similar progress on the Palestinian side."
No, it's not a quote from last year - not even last winter. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said it this past Sunday morning at the week Cabinet meeting. And he saw fit to have this noted in his press release. But a few hours later it became apparent that, yet again, Netanyahu has abandoned the principle of principle of reciprocity.
Here is a recap of the last year.
January 15: FRDs (the redeployment of Israeli troops and the turn over of land and security control to the Palestinian Authority) linked to broad compliance: After approving the Hebron redeployment without insisting that the Palestinians first clear up their serious violations, a special Cabinet meeting "reiterates that a fundamental condition for the continuation of the [peace] process with the Palestinians is the mutual fulfillment of the obligations of both sides, as itemized in the Note for the Record of 14.01.97." The Ross Note requires immediate Palestinian action not only to fight terror but also to amend the Palestinian Charter, reduce of the size of the PA's armed forces and remove illegal PA institutions and activities from Israeli areas - including Jerusalem.
March 6: Cabinet approves FRD in spite of Palestinian noncompliance. Palestinians reject size of the FRD. Violence linked to Har Homa.
March 23: FRD's linked only to security related issues: The Ministers' Committee for National Security announces that "The Government of Israel demands that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its commitments to fight terrorism and violence, as a necessary step to advance the political process and first of all:
A) Strengthening security cooperation.
B) Preventing incitement and hostile propaganda against Israel.
C) Combat systematically and effectively terrorist organizations and infrastructure.
D) Apprehension, prosecution, and punishment of terrorists.
E) Acting upon requests for transfer of suspects and defendants in accordance with the Interim Agreement.
F) Confiscation of illegal weapons."
September 29 - Linkage reiterated: Secretary of State Madeline Albright refers to the Ross "Note for the Record" when describing the further redeployments (FRD's). The Americans accept the principle that FRD's can only take place if the Palestinians fulfill their security obligations.
November 11 - Likud Central Committee member Uzi Cohen explains that the vote to end the primary system will enable the Central Committee to silence MK's who may oppose Netanyahu in future steps
in peace process.
November 12 - No negotiations - only talks?: Netanyahu tells Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy that "the Palestinian Authority's war against terrorism is a pre-condition for continuing negotiations." but that "we intend to continue with" talks to reach solutions and agreements on issues raised" at the Washington talks.
November 13 - Vivid reminder of PA violations: Two members of the murderous Tzurif terror cell are caught by the IDF as they are being transferred from Hebron to another location by the PA. The PA had earlier denied Israel's request that they be transferred to Israel in accordance with the Interim Agreement.
November 14 - Albright sets the stage: An "informed source" briefing reporters in Secretary of State Madeline Albright's entourage before her meeting with Netanyahu claims that the Palestinians are fighting terror.
November 23: Netanyahu reiterates importance of reciprocity at the morning cabinet meeting. A few hours later he launches campaign for FRD. Reporters covering the story note that the cabinet decision requiring reciprocity in the security area would make an FRD impossible.
November 24: The words "reciprocity" and "compliance" are mentioned only by opponents of an FRD. Avigdor Liberman endorses withdrawals for national unity without mentioning reciprocity.
Reliable informed sources expect a repeat performance of Netanyahu's "If you only knew what I knew" speech before the Likud Central Party meeting which took place after he first met with Arafat. At that time, Netanyahu attempted to ridicule his opponents in the Likud by claiming that he was privy to information indicating that the Palestinians were making major strides in compliance. The information proved incorrect.
These sources do not believe that any serious advanced planning was done to insure that the FRD being pushed by Netanyahu won't create significantly large contiguous Palestinian areas. Arafat might then have the "critical mass" to enable him to unilaterally declare a state but such action, the argument goes, is doubtful since it might jeopardize his prospects of getting even more territory.
Netanyahu argues that he will be able to make this FRD the last FRD before the talks end. Reliable informed sources, however, concede that while Netanyahu's proposal will be treated by Clinton and Arafat as only an opening offer, his abandonment of any semblance of the principle of reciprocity sets the stage for Arafat to never have to comply.
Ironically, by pressing Netanyahu to abandon the principle of reciprocity, President Clinton and the "peace camp" have set the stage for war. For without a serious Palestinian commitment to honor the security limits set by agreements, future armed conflict of disastrous proportions becomes inevitable.
Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis) (mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-9-7411645 INTERNET ADDRESS: email@example.com