Thursday, March 3, 2011

PM Netanyhau to unveil New Israeli initiative at US Congress address in May

(Jpost).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new diplomatic initiative is likely to be unveiled in Washington in May, possibly during an address to Congress.

Discussions are being held between Jerusalem and Congressional representatives about organizing a speech in Congress when Netanyahu goes to Washington to address the annual AIPAC policy conference, scheduled to begin May 22.

Netanyahu met Thursday with White House senior advisor Dennis Ross, who is in the country with a team of Middle East experts – including Fred Hoff and Mara Rudman from US envoy George Mitchell's team – for talks. Hoff is Mitchell's specialist on Syria and Lebanon.

Netanyahu is keeping details of any new initiative very close to his chest, Barak hinted at a direction, saying there was a widespread understanding of the need to move – in a phased, gradual manner – toward an agreed upon objective.

While there is some speculation that Netanyahu is interested in a Palestinian state within temporary borders, with the final borders to be negotiated at a later date, others believe that Netanyahu's plain entails a reiteration of the goal of two states, and the announcement that the IDF will turn control over all the major cities in the West Bank over to the PA, giving them control over some 90 percent of the Palestinian population. Under this plan, the IDF would no longer operate inside the cities, except where in extraordinary circumstances.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in a Channel 10 interview, said an initiative is essential to maintain Israel's position in the world, ensure future US security assistance, and fend off delegitimization.

While Barak said a major policy address in the US by Netanyahu in May would be important, this was a long way off, and there were immediate diplomatic challenges for Israel on the immediate horizon.