The real issue is September

By Uri Dromi, August 4, 2011
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What has caused the Prime Minister to - apparently - change his mind and accept the 1967 borders as a basis for peace talks?

Surely he hasn't, in the past few weeks, discovered some new data which sheds a different light on the question of defensible borders.

Rather, it is the September deadline - when the UN General Assembly is likely to accept a Palestinian state. It seems that, in a last-minute attempt to pre-empt the vote, Mr Netanyahu, sliding down his slippery slope, has dropped one more principle.

First he spoke the unspeakable when he agreed to a two-state solution, which was a huge reversal of his long-held attitudes: just read his book, Place Under the Sun, in which a Palestinian state is portrayed as a mortal danger.

And now, not only a Palestinian state, but with the 1967 borders as a starting point.

In the meantime, the Palestinians flatly rejected the offer to resume the talks.

We are left, however, with questions about Mr Netanyahu's conduct; indeed, his stature as a leader. It is not new that he yields to pressure - former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once said that when it comes to resilience at the helm, he prefered Shimon Peres over Benjamin Netanyahu. A strong statement by a staunch Likkudnik. And why, for heaven's sake, wait for the last moment, when we saw September coming a long time ago?

I have never been one of Mr Netanyahu's greatest supporters, but to blame him alone for the failure of the peace process is too much.

Others must share the blame.

First of all, President Obama, with his naivety and inexperience, introduced the freezing of settlement building as precondition to talks. I oppose the settlements but I oppose more the tricks that give the Palestinians excuses to avoid talking.

Which brings me to the Palestinians.

When I served as the spokesman of the Rabin government, I went with him to Cairo for the ratification of the Oslo Accords. After a long night of haggling with Yasser Arafat, all was agreed. Yet at the ceremony the following day, in front of the world's media, Arafat refused to sign all the pages of the agreement, claiming that certain issues were left for later discussions.

The fuming Rabin, his face redder than ever, threatened to leave and, only after a lot of begging, Arafat yielded.

It seems to me that this Palestinian pattern is at play again: always trying to get a better deal. Why enter any talks with Israel now, when September will push Israel to the corner and enable more concessions?

Being a sworn optimist, by the way, I refuse to let all this get me into a grim mood. Let the UN declare a Palestinian state. There will be celebrations, instability, maybe troubles. When the dusts settles, though, the Palestinians will have to sit down and talk.

This is what Mr Netanyahu has just offered them, isn't it?

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem

Last updated: 12:23pm, August 4 2011