Elusive Israeli Speech on Peace

  • 11 July 2010

During the last few days Israel has talked about peace with Palestinians in an evasive manner and there are three references that confirm this impression. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech to the American Council on Foreign Relations in New York and in an interview to CNN, repeated impossible conditions for making peace with Palestinians. Netanyahu talked about recognizing Israel as a Jewish nation, leaving Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state, resumption of colony-building and not extending the construction freeze imposed in the West Bank ending in September.

The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister said last week that his country does not intend to withdraw to 1967 borders while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state until 2012 because, as he put it, both parties are still far from reaching an agreement. Such evasive talk clearly indicates that the Netanyahu government is not serious about the peace process and is evading their responsibilities toward it. President Obama, on the other hand, does not rule out the possibility of an agreement in the Middle East in the next few years. The administration also announced its commitment to establishing an independent Palestinian state, while other Arab and international parties are making efforts to achieve substantial progress in the peace process. This confirms that Israel is moving against the will of the international community which is seeking peace.

It is true that the Obama administration is making efforts with the hope of achieving a breakthrough in the peace process in the next few years. However, the problem comes from Israel, which always dismisses any new opportunity that looms on the horizon and does not respond accordingly. On the contrary, it sets conditions that abort peace initiatives even before they begin to take shape. For instance, while Palestinians approved of efforts to engage in direct negotiations in exchange for Israel freezing settlement and recognizing the two-state solution – which is a legitimate condition, supported by major powers – Netanyahu government completely ignores it. Israel wants to impose peace in accordance with its own terms and reasons and by disregarding all agreements, covenants and international references. This is the main reason behind the stalemate in the peace process.

The question is how can Palestinians move to direct negotiations under impossible conditions imposed by Netanyahu’s government? How could they trust these negotiations, when Israelis are determined not to withdraw to the 1976 borders and are excluding beforehand the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next two years? In order for Israel to demonstrate its desire for peace and seriousness, it must abide by the terms of references on which the peace process has been based since the beginning. It must also respond to the international community and major powers’ positions which are sponsoring the settlement process. It must also stop putting impossible conditions and stop resorting to tactics of wasting time and imposing fait accompli.