|Pres. Obama drops in on meeting with Mofaz, June 21. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Even if he has his way, we have yet to see if the “centrist” approach associated with Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of the Kadima party and Netanyahu’s new deputy prime minister and coalition partner, would be bold enough to move the two-state solution back on track; for example, he has suggested a Palestinian state within temporary boundaries, to be expanded after negotiations are complete. But the more positive attitude of Mofaz toward peacemaking won him a surprise audience a couple of days ago with Pres. Obama. The following is from a JTA news service article by correspondent Ron Kampeas, “Mofaz grabs Washington’s attention for peace talks talk, but is Netanyahu listening?”
…. The question is whether the former Israeli military chief of staff and defense minister has the ear of the person whose opinion matters most from the Israeli perspective: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The joining of Mofaz to his government provides a stable platform to proceed toward the two-state solution,” Gilad Sher, a former top negotiator with the Palestinians, told JTA. “But it all depends on what’s happening within one person’s mind, and that person is our prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu.”
Yet, he added, “[With Mofaz] there is a better chance for this coalition to at least try to move towards a direction that would be more specifically oriented to a two-state solution. …”
The peace talks have been moribund since October 2010, when the Palestinians walked out because Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month unilateral freeze on West Bank settlement building.
Mofaz, at the outset of his Washington tour last week, made clear that reviving the effort was his priority….
“Time is not in favor of the State of Israel and it is not in favor of the Palestinians either,” he said at a June 19 address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We cannot continue to rule another nation; we have to find a solution.”
… Mofaz said that such talks were at least as urgent as those aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — a sharp contrast with … Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak….
…. Still, Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli deputy defense minister who has known Mofaz since their days as commandos, said he did not believe Netanyahu would listen to his new colleague.
“I’m afraid [Netanyahu] won’t because of the large number of registered hard-line, right-wing Likud members from the settlements,” ….
…. In 2009, … Mofaz came up with a peace plan that was far-reaching in two respects: It proposed an interim Palestinian state in place of incremental talks he said were dooming the peace process, and he did not count out the inclusion of Hamas on the Palestinian side.
Mofaz, like other Israeli pretenders to the prime-ministership, insists that all parties must accept the international community’s conditions for participation in the peace talks. They know fully well that Hamas rejects the conditions, including recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism. The difference was that Mofaz would not count out Hamas changing its posture, while Netanyahu insists the movement is irredeemable and must be crushed. ….