Steinitz said that while previous Israeli leaders, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, had “allegedly drawn maps and drafted agreements” during the 2007-2008 peace talks with the Palestinian leadership, none of those would be used during the new negotiations.
One senior Israeli official, also involved in the talks and therefore only willing to speak anonymously, said that Livni, a former foreign minister who’s in the current government as both justice minister and peace envoy, would have to be particularly careful during negotiations and had very little “wiggle room.”
“Everyone knows that she has a government behind her which doesn’t really stand behind her,” said the official, referring to Livni’s advocacy of the two-state solution in a Cabinet that does not really back it.
“Even if she came to a final type of agreement, there is no assurances she will get it passed back home,” the official said.
Israel’s Cabinet voted to approve a new law that would require a public referendum on any future peace deal affecting sovereign Israeli territory. Israeli newspaper columnist Shalom Yerushalmi remarked that if that law had been in place 30 years ago, Israel never would have been able to negotiate peace with any of its neighbors.
Palestinians admit that they, too, must contend with a deeply divided public, many of whom back the position of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, which opposes any negotiations.
“We all agree that neither side is enthusiastic about peace talks at this stage,” said one Palestinian official previously involved in negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “Though when we go to Washington all of us will pretend to be and will talk about ‘optimism’ and ‘prospects for peace.’”