Israeli ex-minister calls for U-turn on Palestinians


Danny Ayalon, who ended his term as Israeli deputy foreign minister last week, has called for Jerusalem to come to terms with the upgraded Palestinian status at the United Nations in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national state.

Speaking ahead of next month’s visit to the region by US president Barack Obama, Mr Ayalon, who only a few months ago spearheaded Israel’s campaign against the Palestinian campaign for statehood recognition, called for an Israeli diplomatic U-turn.

“Israel must recognise a Palestinian state as a UN member state, grant it sovereignty and independence, and start negotiations on a permanent agreement from this point.”

He predicted that President Obama would hold a summit meeting with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during his trip, and said Jordan’s King Abdullah might also participate.

However, Mr Ayalon cautioned that prospects for a dramatic breakthrough were low.

“The minimum the Palestinians are demanding does not match what Israel is prepared to give. Abbas wants to be the president who achieved broad international recognition for the Palestinians without relinquishing Jerusalem and the [refugees’] right of return.”

Pessimistic note

An even more pessimistic note was sounded by former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said it was impossible to get peace with the Palestinians.

“This situation is impossible. It is not possible to solve the conflict here. The conflict can be managed and it is important to manage the conflict . . . to negotiate on a long-term interim agreement. This is the only possible thing to do.”

He dismissed speculation that dovish Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, would replace him as foreign minister in the next government.

Mr Netanyahu said his meeting with Mr Obama would focus on three issues: Iran’s nuclear programme, the unrest in Syria and efforts to promote the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Israeli officials told army radio that Mr Obama was coming to Israel to personally tell Mr Netanyahu in a clear manner to refrain from ordering a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.