Monday

23rd Jan 2017

Opinion

Israel: Negotiations cannot be bypassed

  • The old town in Jerusalem - at the heart of competing views on how to end the decades-old conflict (Photo: Hadar)

The situation in our part of the Middle East does not appear to make much sense at first glance. Israel has declared that it supports the establishment of two states for two peoples - which includes a Palestinian state. The Palestinians say they want a state. So why do two seemingly identical positions not lead to the expected outcome? The answer is simple - both sides hold opposing views on the means to reach this goal.

Israel believes that a Palestinian state should be achieved as the result of a comprehensive and genuine peace process. Negotiations remain the only means to reach agreement on the complicated issues that surround the establishment of a new state.

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However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is attempting to bypass talks and create a state without making peace with Israel. This is the motivation behind their refusal to participate in serious negotiations for nearly three years, as well as their decision to turn to the UN for recognition.

There is an unbridgeable gap between a state with peace and a state without peace. The future of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians lies in that difference. Will the Palestinians have a country from which they launch further attacks on Israel or will they build a country which will live in peaceful coexistence with their neighbour?

Instead of negotiating, the Palestinians are assailing Israel with diplomatic warfare. They have orchestrated a recognition bid at the UN, in direct violation of the Oslo Accords the PA signed with Israel, which specifically forbid unilateral action to change the status of the West Bank and Gaza.

It has become increasingly clear that the Palestinian Authority is not very interested in peace negotiations. This unfortunate turn of events is demonstrated by the ever growing list of preconditions the Palestinians have set for the resumption of negotiations.

The first precondition laid out by the PA was an end to settlement activity. They then proceeded to ignore the 10-month moratorium on West Bank building initiated by Israel, deciding to negotiate only after nine and a half months had passed. After six hours of talks, they abandoned negotiations once again. Then they demanded that before talks begin, Israel must surrender to their demands and recognize the 1949 cease-fire lines (erroneously referred to as the 1967 borders) as the borders of a future Palestinian state. Now there are press reports that a third precondition is on its way - a release of convicted Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.

Furthermore, as part of their strategy of avoiding direct negotiations they have chosen to disregard the urgent appeal issued by the Quartet, in which the European Union plays a crucial role, on September 23rd: "to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions."

In the meantime, the Palestinians are attempting to portray settlements as the true obstacle to peace. Yet the Palestinians were waging war for decades before there was a single settlement in the West Bank. As one wag recently noted, the PLO (the father of the PA) is an "organization created in 1964 to end the 1967 occupation."

While the Palestinian Authority is prosecuting diplomatic warfare, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is engaged in real warfare - firing missile after missile at the civilians of southern Israel. Last May, the Palestinian Authority entered into a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, disregarding that terrorist organization's covenant (which calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews), its rejection of any peace process and its murderous terrorist attacks.

Israel is facing two Palestinian entities - one that strikes with violence, the other with diplomatic papers; one that uses Grad missiles, the other political plots.

The only way the Palestinians will ever achieve a state is through direct negotiations aimed at putting an end to their conflict with Israel and establishing a relationship of peace and co-operation. For this reason Israel has called time and again for a return to the negotiating table.

Europe and the rest of the international community should clarify to the Palestinian Authority that it cannot bypass peace talks and persuade it finally to return to the negotiating table.

The writer is ambassador of Israel to the EU.

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