The government of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is fretting over what President Barack Obama may or may not do in the waning days of his administration.
Will Obama endorse a U.N. resolution enshrining a rough outline for what a two-state solution to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict should look like – regarding future borders, the fate of the Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem?
Or maybe Obama will give a speech.
Or send Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Paris to mull the “French initiative” to push for an end to Israel’s 50-year military occupation, a conference that appears to be stalled.
Or. Or. Or.
We spoke with Israel’s former top peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, who told The Washington Post that there will be no final resolution until Israeli and Palestinian leaders understand that the price of no deal is higher than the price of a deal.
Livni, 58, is a leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament. She has held eight cabinet posts, including foreign minister, the most held by any Israeli woman.
The Washington Psot sat down with her recently on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity:
Q: Americans have elected Donald Trump. Do you foresee any changes in the U.S.-Israel relationship, or any change in how the new administration might approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
A: Nobody knows what is going to happen. But I do believe that the relationship between Israel and the United States is based on shared values, true friendship and interests.
As an Israeli, I believe that instead of thinking about what President-elect Trump might do, Israel needs to decide its own policy.
At the moment, it’s not clear inside Israel or outside what Israel wants. Is it two states for two peoples, as Netanyahu is saying? Or is it what Minister Naftali Bennett [of the right wing Jewish Home party] is saying, that we should forget about the two-state solution?
Israel needs to make a decision. It’s a tough decision, but without it, it is difficult to explain to the outside world what Israel is doing.
Q: You were the top negotiator with the Palestinians in 2014. Nine months of meetings led by Kerry. The talks failed. Why?
A: It is important to understand that we did move forward. The gaps between the sides on most issues were narrowed.
But sometimes, when it comes to sensitive issues like Jerusalem, refugees, the gap looks narrow but it’s very deep because it touches on the sensitivities of the narratives of both sides.
I have a list of mistakes made by us, by the Palestinians, by the Americans, but I cannot put a finger on whether an agreement would have been possible.
I believe that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a huge historical mistake by not accepting the framework for future negotiations that the Americans proposed in the last round of talks. The idea was to set parameters for negotiations going forward so that both sides would have room to say they had reservations.
It was a good opportunity for Netanyahu and the Israeli side to have the deniability — to say it’s an American paper and they could not accept it yet. It could have sent an important message to Israelis that the only solution is two states for two people.
Q: President-elect Trump has promised to tear up the Iranian nuclear agreement and renegotiate the whole thing. What do you think?
A: The last thing I would do is refer to what the president-elect said during the campaign. But I do think the most important thing for everyone when it comes to Iran is to focus on the area that was not a part of the agreement: Iran as a sponsor of terrorism.
During the negotiations, we told the United States there is the need to address that. And the answer we got is that this agreement is just on the nuclear stuff.
It cannot be that the international community has such low standards. You can support terror, as long as you are not doing it with nuclear weapons?
Q: As an Israeli, as a Jew, what do you think of the images from Washington that show a convention of white supremacists saying “hail Trump” and making Nazi salutes?
A: It is awful. We need to understand what we all are facing. This is against foreigners and Jews. Anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head in different parts of the world. All together we should fight terrorism, fight anti-Semitism, fight xenophobia and fight for our values. This is what makes Israel part of the free world. Instead of saying workers of the world unite, moderates of the world should unite.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash, William Booth