MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said at a meeting of the Peace Now group in Tel Aviv that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took significant political risk in going forward with the diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians.
Shelah commended the prime minister for promoting the peace talks. "With negotiations you know how you go in, but you don't know how you come out. Netanyahu has a coalition issue in that most Likud members do not want to get to the two-state solution, but if an agreement is reached, it will have a majority of the public's support."
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Still, he added, "I doubt either of the sides will be willing to pay prices if they don’t know what is to follow," he said.
As for the release of prisoners as a gesture to the Palestinians as part of the resumption of peace talks, Shelah said, "This is undoubtedly a questionable move, morally speaking," but noted that it was most likely inevitable. "Netanyahu felt obligated to Kerry, and among issues such as the '67 borders or settlement freeze, this was the only thing he was willing to do, or thought was possible."
"When you talk of a settlement, you think of Begin, Sadat and an American president. The issue becomes more convoluted when surprises from the Arab world come into play. Changes in the Arab world led to a state of affairs by which some are in deeper conflict with other sources, than they are with Israel."
He said the prime minister did not speak with Finance Minister Yair Lapid before making the decision regarding the settlement freeze or prisoner release. "The prime minister was facing difficult political circumstances… and should be supported. We were supportive, but were not part of the decision."
Shelah believes that the issue of Jerusalem would be the final one in the negotiations. "I can't envision a settlement by which Palestinians do not call east Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state."
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