Evading the Obligations of Peace

  • 30 December 2010

The office of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s position on peace with Palestinians – especially his comments on the hopelessness of a permanent settlement and the alternative of a long-term interim agreement – are his personal views and does not reflect the cabinet’s opinion. Netanyahu, however, took the same position the very next day and suggested an interim agreement, reiterating his previous conditions to peace. These conditions included the formation of a demilitarized Palestinian state, rejecting the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the recognition of a Judaized Hebrew state. This is a confirmation of the fact that right-wing extremists are governing Israel and are dictating positions on the peace process even though it appears from outside that there are differences in their positions.

The interim agreement that Israel is talking about as a way out of the current stalemate excludes the main disputes specially the issue of Jerusalem and the right of the return of refugees. Israel’s intention is to convert this interim agreement into a permanent solution with the passage of time which is why Tel Aviv refuses to give up despite international pressures. This plan has been in place since the Netanyahu government came to power and tried to impose fait accompli by making efforts to Judaize through excessive settlement building in Jerusalem. Talks of an interim agreement reveal the actual intention of the Israeli government regarding peace. Israel is making efforts to evade the commitments and terms of reference of the peace process which have been in place since the 1991 Madrid Conference. It has instead worked towards its own distorted vision of peace that is incomplete with a Palestine that does not possess elements of a state. This threatens to create a vacuum and undermine the real meaning of the principle of ‘Land for Peace’.

Netanyahu and his foreign minister’s talk of an interim agreement is a waste of efforts that have gone into negotiations for almost 19 years since the start of the Arab-Israeli peace process in Madrid. The negotiating process has succumbed to the intransigent position adopted by Israel, defying all pressure and international references. By proposing an interim agreement Netanyahu is trying to appear before the world as a party searching for solution to the stalled peace process in order to face escalating international recognition of the Palestinian State with 1967 borders and to throw the ball back into the Palestinian court. Therefore, the decisive rejection by the Palestinian Authority of any talk over interim agreement, that excludes Jerusalem and refugees, reflects a clear understanding of the Israeli objectives behind such proposal.