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Irwin Cotler


By IRWIN COTLER July 3, 2011, with Editor's note

 [Editor's note from Israel: There is some background to Irwin Cotler's article below just published in the Jerusalem Post that  I think is is relevant for putting it in context. Last week there was  an international conference of Jewish Parliamentarians in Jerusalem, which was closed ot the media. During that time Ha'aretz broke the story that World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder,  said Israel must present a diplomatic plan in order to regain  international support and block Palestinian efforts to obtain unilateral recognition for statehood from the UN in September. Lauder, who in the past has been a big supporter of Netanyahu, said  that it could be that such an intiiative would amount to  committing political suicide for Netanyahu, but it would send the ball back into the Paklestinian court.

The  Hebrew daily Ma'ariv  recently reported on June 23 that behind the scenes Netanyahu has agreed to Obama's principles to negotiatie on the basis of the 1967 lines  but this report was denied by  the Prime Minister's office. The English Palestinian e-paper Ma'an  wrote  about the Ma'ariv report at A statement released by Netanyahu's office  saidt “the report is untrue and Netanyahu’s stance concerning 1967 borders is clear, Israel will not return to these borders. But this past weekend  I read in Ma'ariv in Hebrew that Ma'ariv went back to its orgiinal sources and re-confirmed its report, notwithstanding the denial by Netanayhu 's office. 

Shortly after Lauder criticized Netanyahu for not presenting a peace plan , pro-Israel Liberal MP  Irwin Cotler, and former Canadian Minsiter of Justice told the Jerusaelm Post that he believed Netanyahu ought ot  present a peace initiative based on Obama's principles as endorsed in the  G8 Communique. In the article below published on July 3, 2011 in the Jerusalem Post, Cotler outlines the intiitative he believes Netanyahu ought to  put forth. In the article Cotler says that the inference from Obama's speeches  is that the Palestinian refugee issue will be solved in the new  Palestinian state  not Israel. As Cotler says :

"... his [Obama's]  reference to the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people effectively precluded any Palestinian return to it.

Although an express reference to that effect would have been desirable, the clear inference is that the Palestinian refugee question must be solved in Palestine, just as the question of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries was resolved in Israel."

Unlike Cotler, I don't think that inference can be made. Obama could have said clearly in his speeches that the Palestinain refugees will only be able to return to Palestine not Israel if he had wanted to, but he chose not to. That's not an accident in my view.  Obama is leaving open the possiblility that a certain number of Paelstinians (unknown) could  return to Israel, but not enough to enable Palestinains to become a majority of the State of Israel. Below is  Cotler 's article ]


by Irwin Cotler, July 3, 2011 Jerusalem Post

The announcement by the Palestinian Authority that it has resolved to seek UN recognition of statehood – the alleged contretemps between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and the reported demand by the UK, France and Germany for Obama to present a peace plan, organized around his principles, to the meeting of the Quartet on July 11 pose a challenge, but more of an opportunity, for Netanyahu.

Simply put, the prime minister should call for direct negotiations with PA President Mahmoud Abbas based on the Obama principles as set forth in his speeches of May 19 and 22 respectively, and as endorsed by the G8 communiqué.

Admittedly it might seem counterintuitive – if not questionable – to recommend that Netanyahu undertake this initiative. A majority of Israelis – and an increasing number of American Jews – regard Obama as naïve, if not insensitive, to the Israeli case and cause. Moreover, Israelis, as the polls demonstrate, largely supported Netanyahu in his public exchanges with Obama, and have become increasingly skeptical, if not distrustful, of Abbas, particularly regarding his reconciliation agreement with Hamas, his UN gambit and his unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

But a careful reading of the Obama speeches reveals the following foundational principles, which actually align themselves with Netanyahu’s views and effectively frame the context and content of prospective negotiations.

First, “that the ultimate goal is two states for two peoples,” with Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people. This foundational principle makes express reference to the importance of the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland.

Second, it is clear, as Obama put it, “that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to destroy it.”

Third, Obama reaffirmed the “unbreakable” bond between the US and Israel, the “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. In particular, he recognized that “every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat,” thus requiring that the proposed Palestinian state be demilitarized, and conditioning Israeli withdrawal from any post-1967 territory on the demonstrated effectiveness of security arrangements.

Fourth, the president made it clear that the reference to the 1967 borders – in both his State Department and AIPAC speeches – did not indicate that Israel should return to the 1967 lines. On the contrary, after saying that the “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps should be the basis of negotiation,” he added, “It means that the parties themselves, Israelis and Palestinians, will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

This was the reason Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper felt it was important to reject the inclusion in the G8 communiqué of Obama’s alleged reference to the 1967 borders, because in fact, Obama had not made such a requirement; and more importantly, it was only one of a number of important principles and policies shared by the US, Israel, Canada and other members of the international community.

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