by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having a hard time keeping his government in order as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continues his push for peace.
Over the past few days Netanyahu, who has stated that he is in favor of a two-state solution, has been accused by Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni of not negotiating with the Palestinians in good faith. Livni claimed that Netanyahu was only conducting the negotiations to expose Palestinians as rejectionists of peace.
In addition to the remarks from Livni, whose party is a minor member of the coalition government, Naftali Bennet, chairman of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party, publicly criticized Netanyahu's proposal, which calls for Jewish settlers to become citizens of a future Palestinian state instead of being relocated.
"Netanyahu is trying to be as vague as possible to his ultimate plans," says Eyal Chowers, a Tel Aviv University professor, "On one hand he said in his Bar-Ilan speech that he is committed to the two-state solution, but on the other had he has done very little to actually advance it during his years in power," Chowers told Xinhua on Tuesday, referring to a 2009 speech that Netanyahu gave at Bar-Ilan University.
Avraham Diskin, a professor from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, didn't see an immediate threat of the coalition government breaking up but said that "as long as there is nothing concrete on the table the government isn't going to collapse but the tension is there."
TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT
While Netanyahu did offer his support for a two-state solution in 2009, another speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University in 2013 questions the willingness of the Palestinians to make peace and argues that the root of the conflict is the Palestinian refusal to accept Jews living in Israel.
Netanyahu has, in the past, been accused of only verbally supporting a two-state solution without actually doing anything to promote the idea. For instance, Netanyahu has never presented his own proposal of borders for a Palestinian state; instead, he has rejected the American idea of using the pre-1967 war lines as the starting point for the negotiations of the possible future borders.
Chowers argued that Netanyahu is basically trying to buy time, as much as possible. But now, because of Kerry's efforts, he has arrived to a point where he has to give clear answers.
"He can't make everyone happy forever and he is reaching the point where he will have to decide," Chowers said.
The only way for Netanyahu to continue in the current manner would be if Palestinians reject Kerry's plan and they say they won 't continue to negotiate, then that would allow Netanyahu to continue stalling, according to Chowers.
Nevertheless, if they accepted it, even conditionally, Netanyahu would have to declare his own position and then he might lose his coalition and have to form a new one, or go to elections, he added.
Diskin said at the moment there isn't a real danger to the coalition, but if a real deal is on the table and the disagreement over the deal between Livni's HaTnua party and Bennett's HaBayit Hayehudi party which has a large support among settlers and even some members of Netanyahu's Likud party, then the stability of the government could be threatened.
He added that "only when something concrete would be decided, let's take the framework for an agreement where one has to say yes or no; then it would depend on the details."
Kerry is expected to present a framework for a final peace deal within a couple of weeks. When he announced last year that negotiations were to be resumed a nine-month timeframe was outlined that is scheduled to end in March.
The current U.S. administration has in the past tried to get the Israeli and the Palestinians to agree on a peace deal. And Kerry has put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into restarting the talks on and reaching an agreement since he assumed office in February 2013.
Last year the secretary of state visited Israel and the West Bank ten times with additional meetings being held in Jordan and he shows no sign of slowing down. Netanyahu is finding it increasingly difficult to keep everyone happy.
While Netanyahu might want to reject outright whatever proposal Kerry presents, he simply can't do this as it would further damage the already tense ties between Israel and the U.S. at a time when he is trying to impose more sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, which he views as an existential threat to the Jewish state.