Americans for Peace Now today called on the Obama Administration to reject Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's cynical call for negotiations over settlement blocs and to instead prepare itself to lead or co-lead a resolution in the United Nations Security Council laying out clear parameters for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consistent with longstanding U.S. policy. APN President and CEO Debra DeLee issued the following statement:
"This week, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly announced his readiness to negotiate with the Palestinians over settlement 'blocs.' The United States and international community must reject this transparently cynical bluff. New negotiations now – or pressure on the Palestinians to go back to talks with a Netanyahu government – would be futile and counterproductive, further discrediting diplomacy and U.S. leadership. They would provide cover for further Israeli government policies and actions that are anathema to peace. They would further undermine the already diminishing Palestinian support for the two-state outcome and feed international boycott-divestment-sanctions efforts.
"As a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, we are committed first and foremost to Israel's security and its survival as a democracy and a state with a proud Jewish character – things that only a two-state peace agreement can deliver. Regrettably, for his entire career – including his three previous terms in office as Prime Minister – Netanyahu has demonstrated by his own actions that rather than seeking Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab peace, he is wholly supportive of settlements and an expansionist 'Greater Israel' agenda.
"In the wake of the recent Israeli election campaign, during which Netanyahu proudly touted his pro-settlement credentials and unabashedly vowed that no Palestinian state would be established while he is in office – and in the wake of his formation of the most right-wing government in Israel's history – there can be no further debate: neither Netanyahu, nor this government, is a partner for peace – not for the Palestinians, not for supporters of the Arab Peace Initiative, and not for the United States and broader international community.
"The only thing that would challenge this conclusion would be not words but decisive, pro-peace action from Netanyahu and his government – action that would represent a 180-degree shift from everything that Netanyahu has done until this point.
"It remains true that only a negotiated two-state agreement can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only such an agreement can preserve Israel's character as a Jewish state and a democracy and deliver the Palestinians freedom and dignity in their own sovereign state. However, there is no reason to believe that this new Israeli government, under Netanyahu's leadership, offers any prospect for such an agreement, or for any broader agreement based on the Arab Peace Initiative. This is the case regardless of the readiness of the Palestinians to make tough compromises or the willingness of the international community to provide support and guarantees. In this context, the United States and international community must set aside, for now, the long-pursued objective of fostering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"The time has come for the U.S. to focus on restoring the credibility of its own policies and, in the process, the credibility of the two-state outcome. To achieve this, we urge the Obama Administration to reject Netanyahu's hollow, self-serving calls for negotiations to legitimize de facto annexation of large areas of the West Bank. Instead, the U.S. should clarify and articulate U.S. policy vis-à-vis the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in greater resolution and with greater resolve than has been done at any time in the past, by any administration. The era of 'constructive ambiguity' must definitively end, along with the era, dating back to long before the Obama Administration, of articulating U.S. policies regarding settlements that, when challenged by Israeli actions, are proven to be empty words.
"We believe that an Israel-Palestine two-state initiative in the United Nations Security Council, led by the Obama Administration, or formulated in cooperation with key international partners, would be a powerful vehicle for such an articulation. Such an initiative should be undertaken as soon as possible, as developments on the ground every day render the prospects for a two-state solution more remote. Such a resolution should lay out clear parameters for a future Israeli-Palestinian two-state agreement, grounded in the Clinton Parameters, consistent with an outcome along the lines of the Geneva Initiative, and supportive of broader Israeli-Arab peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative. While the U.S. should of course continue to engage both parties, there must be no further efforts, public or private, to pre-negotiate text or positions with the Israeli government or the Palestinian leadership.
"By pursuing this course, the United States can re-assert and re-accredit U.S. leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and beyond, and both affirm the U.S. commitment to Israel's security and to preserving its Jewish and democratic character and to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, living side by side, in peace, with the state of Israel. It can signal unambiguously, both to Israelis and Palestinians, that the United States and the world have not and will not abandon the two-state solution, nor will they be lulled into inaction by Israeli government statements that are contradicted by actions on the ground."