Dec. 15, 2004 2:34
Netanyahu warns against 'Oslo trap'
By AVI KRAWITZ
Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned against following in the footsteps of the failed Oslo process on Tuesday, and said that Israel must follow America's lead in demanding that the Palestinians establish a democratic society as a starting point for future negotiations.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on The Balance of Israel's National Security, Netanyahu said that the disengagement plan will be ineffective if it is not accompanied by a real regime change.
Earlier this year, Netanyahu threatened to leave the government in an attempt to force Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into initiating a national referendum on disengagement. Following a two-week ultimatum given to Sharon on the issue, the finance minister decided on November 9 to keep his post – but he demanded a reassessment of the unilateral nature of the disengagement plan.
Reiterating the stance he took then, Netanyahu told the conference that the death of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat presents an opportunity to establish a new Palestinian leadership that can be negotiated with on the basis of reciprocity.
"Withdrawal from Gaza is a secondary matter, the major disengagement must take place behind the (security) fence," he said. "We have to refrain from falling into the Oslo trap of replacing one tyrant with another."
Referring to the election of US President George W. Bush to a second term of office in November, Netanyahu said that the American public's acceptance of Bush's vision for the future of Iraq gives Israel a strong mandate to insist on the democratization of Palestinian society.
"I don't think we should demand less than the US does," he said. "I don't think we should be less Catholic than the pope."