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Netanyahu. Speech ready?
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Obama. May offer guarantees
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Netanyahu's US speech raises speculations
Likud elements close to Benjamin Netanyahu estimate PM won't declare Israeli concessions, withdrawal from West Bank territories during address to Congress later this month, but may tone down speech depending on results of meeting with US president

Likud sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu estimated Thursday that he will not announce Israeli concessions or a withdrawal from West Bank territories during his speech in Congress later this month. The sources, nevertheless said that should Netanyahu receive significant strategic guarantees from US President Barack Obama he may tone down his Congress address.

 

"Netanyahu planned on giving a security-oriented Zionist speech before Congress, he had no intention of discussing compromises or concessions. The meeting with Obama may change the picture and the content of his speech may change tactically," a close associate of Netanyahu said.

 

Likud sources estimated that guarantees by Obama may cause Netanyahu to tone down his speech, which could be similar to the one Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave recently at the Kirya IDF base in Tel Aviv.

 

Barak presented an outline for renewed talks with the Palestinians including Israeli conditions. Barak suggested that should Hamas accept the outline, negotiations could be resumed. The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on the speech, but Netanyahu associates said Barak was speaking only for himself.

 

Willingness to renew talks

Meanwhile, state officials estimated that Netanyahu will not declare willingness to negotiate on 1967 borders or dividing Jerusalem, but will present conditions to reignite peace talks with an Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

 

"Under the current circumstances, this will mark a significant change. Netanyahu declared that Abbas must choose between Hamas and Israel, and any change, even the slightest, will appear significant to US Congress."

 

An element in the Likud's right wing said: "We shall oppose any call for negotiations based on 1967 borders, but nothing major will happen should the prime minister address annexing the settlement blocks."

 

This effectively means that elements within the Likud do not believe Hamas will be willing to meet the Quartet's demands and therefore a Netanyahu declaration on peace talks will not change matters.

 

 

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