Only talks will suffice
21 November 2011 | Dov Segev Steinberg
The situation in our part of the Middle East doesn’t appear to make much sense at first glance.
Israel has declared that it supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and a Jewish 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.
There is a gap between a state with peace and a state without peace and 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?
Israel believes that a Palestinian state should be achieved as the result of a comprehensive peace process and direct negotiations remain the only means to reach agreement on the complicated issues that surround the establishment of a new state.
However, from our perspective, it has become increasingly clear that the Palestine 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 talks.
The first precondition laid out by the PA was an end to settlement activity.
The 10-month moratorium on West Bank building initiated by Israel was ignored by them and they started to negotiate only after nine and a half months.
After six hours of talks they abandoned negotiations once again then they demanded that before talks begin Israel must surrender to its demands and recognise the 1949 ceasefire lines (erroneously referred to as the 1967 borders) as the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Furthermore, as part of their strategy of avoiding direct negotiations, they have chosen to disregard the urgent appeal issued by the Quartet on September 23 “to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian talks without delay or pre-conditions”.
From Israel’s perspective, the Palestinian Authority is attempting to bypass talks and create a state without making peace with Israel first.
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.
The Palestinian Authority bid at the UN is a 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.
While the Palestinian Authority is engaging in 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 body’s covenant (which calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews), its rejection of any peace process and its terrorist attacks.
Israel is therefore 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 sustainable 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.
Dov Segev Steinberg is Israel’s ambassador to South Africa.
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