Why Do we Have to Hold Peace Negotiations?

  • 7 September 2010

The statement made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday is of great significance as it exposes Israel’s motive behind direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Lieberman said: “You have to understand that signing a comprehensive peace agreement is an unattainable goal – not next year and not in the next generation.” The statement came towards the end of the first round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Washington which paved the way for the second round scheduled to take place in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh on September 14. This raises some important questions – If the Israeli foreign minister does not see the possibility of a peace agreement, “not even in the next generation,” then why has Israel agreed for direct negotiations? Why did it insist on direct negotiations and why did it exert pressure on the Palestinians to agree to this? More importantly, what is the meaning behind Tel Aviv’s approval of the negotiations’ time table of 12 months?

It is clear from Lieberman’s statement that Israel has no real intention of reaching a satisfactory, just and peaceful settlement during the current negotiations. It proves that the country has engaged in talks only to waste more time and at the same time also gain from it. Tel Aviv wants to appear in front of the world as a country that seeks peace and wants to create an impression that the ball is in the Palestinian side. It expects Palestinians to make unbearable concessions and then also holds it responsible for any failure in the peace negotiation process. According to Lieberman, Israel has offered concessions with good intentions and has participated in peace negotiations in recent years starting from Shimon Peres to Netanyahu. It wants to prove that the country has offered what it takes for the peace process to succeed and that the Palestinian attitude is the stumbling block. Israel entered into these direct negotiations with this mindset which is evident in the way it proposed conditions of compliance, on top of which was the recognition of the Jewish state of Israel and guarantee of its security.

Peace negotiations are at a critical juncture because Israel maintains that the success of negotiations is subject to the other party’s concessions while previous experience suggests that Israel has been the main impediment to negotiations due to its obstinate stands and the tendency to circumvent its obligations. The Palestinian demand, on the other hand, is the implementation of what has been agreed upon, its international legitimacy and the terms of references of the peace process since its beginning. There is no doubt that the Lieberman statement has created an atmosphere of despair in the entire region with regard to the Middle East peace negotiations and has exposed the truth behind Israel’s position. It is necessary to exert more international pressure on Israel so that this opportunity for a long-awaited historic settlement is not wasted.