Serious Test of Israeli Will for Peace

  • 23 September 2010

The primary condition for successful direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis is the will to move forward for a settlement. This is followed by the readiness to commit to the requirements of peace and the resolve to reach its goals. In that context, the dispute over the settlement of the occupied Palestinian territories is a major test of Israel’s will for peace. This is more so with international demand for freezing colony-building activities during negotiations as expressed by the Quartet Committee for Peace in the Middle East, comprising the European Union, US, United Nations and Russia. This statement demanded Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the freeze in West Bank settlement beyond September 26.

Palestinians have made their position clear more than once during this period. It has repeatedly stressed that there is no question of negotiating unless settlement activities are brought to a halt. This is consistent with international norms governing serious negotiations both in the past and the present. The most important pre-requisite is that no side should make any changes to issues under negotiations as it is indicates bad faith, suggests the intention to impose fait accompli and exhibits a lack of seriousness. If Israel is serious about reaching an amicable settlement, it needs to freeze colony-building activities completely. However, even as it shows eagerness to participate in negotiations, Israel is continuing its settlements in Palestinian lands and is undertaking feverish activity to change the existing demographic and geographical situation on the ground by building these settlements. This not only imposes fait accompli but also gives Israel the opportunity to deal with the situation on the ground as existing situation.

There are several indications to suggest that Israel is entering into negotiations with a distracted vision and is trying to throw the ball on the Palestinian side so that it can make the failure of negotiations as their responsibility. At the same time, Israel is facing an international demand for settlements freeze. The international community is not going to recognize any unilateral action that upsets peace talks as has been made clear in the latest statement issued by the Quartet. This will put Israel in a position from which it will try to get out by offering partial or temporary solutions, as it has done in the past. It is the responsibility of the international community to stop Israel from ignoring this legitimate demand. Israel always claims that it does not have a partner in peace. It should now prove to the world that it has the will to move forward because its position on settlement will be a major test in this regard.