Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Does Netanyahu Want From The Peace Talks? I Thought You'd Never Ask!

While the media focuses on Abbas's preconditions for direct talks, Benjamin Netanyahu spells out essentials for peace deal
An agreement would have to be based "first of all on recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, an end to the conflict and an end to further demands on Israel," he said.

The Palestinians, who broke off the talks nearly three years ago after Israel staged a bloody offensive into the Gaza Strip, object to endorsing Israel as essentially Jewish. 
Such a move would imply they are dropping their claim that refugees who fled or were expelled when Israel was created in 1948, and their descendants, should be able to reclaim former homes now within Israel.

Mr Netanyahu told reporters that he would also seek "real security arrangements on the ground" to prevent a recurrence in the West Bank of events that took place in the Gaza Strip after Israel pulled out in 2005 and in south Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000.
Netanyahu is not the one who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table for direct peace talks. While the media has ignored it, the fact is that Israel has repeatedly made clear its intentions to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Unlike Abbas, for the past year and a half, since Netanyahu took office, Israel has welcomed the opportunity to resume direct talks with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority--without preconditions. Netanyahu has admitted up front that while difficult, peace is possible with a stable agreement that will benefit both sides.

In the interests of peace, Israel has:
  • Accepted the principle of two states for two peoples
  • Removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the West Bank
  • Provided incentives for the West Bank economy, which is currently growing at a rate of 9% per year
  • Provided assistance to the Palestinian security forces
  • Instituted a 10-month moratorium on new construction in the West Bank
In return, Israel has looked for similar initiatives from the Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. What is needed is a peace partner among the Palestinian Arabs who is willing to:
  • State publicly and in Arabic that both sides will be required to make painful compromises. 
  • Put an end to incitement against Israel
  • Announce the end of the conflict
  • Provide a solution--not demand a concession--to the refugee problem
  • Recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people
Instead of this, thus far Abbas and the Palestinian Authority has conducted a campaign to delegitimize Israel. The PA has:
  • Attemped to prevent Israel’s accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Supported the Goldstone Report attacking Israel’s right to self-defense and accusing it of war crimes
  • Initiated cultural, academic and economic boycotts against Israel
  • The submission of personal lawsuits against Israeli political and military leaders;
  • Continued incitement of hatred of Israel in its school curriculum, religious structure and the media
  • Glorified murderers and suicide bombers who killed Israeli civilians
The question still remains whether Abbas and the Palestinian Authority see themselves as Israel’s enemies or peace partners.

The PA is building thousands of apartments in Rawabi, located between Ramallah and Nablus, with Israel’s help, at the same time that Abbas is demanding construction freeze in Jewish communities which the PA knows will be part of Israel as part of any future agreement. This double standard illustrates how Abbas is using the building issue as an excuse to avoid direct and serious negotiations.

The fact is, the moratorium on new construction in the West Bank is not part of the negotiations. The freeze was a one-time move by Israel to demonstrate its serious desire for peace and pave the way to a resumption of the diplomatic process.

On the other hand, the subject of the settlements will be discussed in the negotiations as part of a permanent agreement on the core issues.

Bottom line, just as Israel is neither demanding any preconditions or threatening to walk out if their demands are not met, it is expected that the Palestinians will behave in a similar manner.

What Israel expects from a peace agreement is 3 core issues:

o Security

There must be concrete security arrangements on the ground that will prevent rockets being fired from the West Bank, which is what happened after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, from which over 10,000 rockets have been fired at Israel. For this reason, a peace agreement must include an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to keep pro-Iranian elements from entering the area, threatening Israel’s airfields, strategic facilities, and residents of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities. A Palestinian state must be a demilitarized state.

Recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people

What sort of peace is being discussed if Israel's peace partners still consider Israel to be an illegitimate part of the region?

A complete end to the conflict

There mus be an end to the conflict and a solution to the refugee problem outside of Israel’s borders. It should be obvious that recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people means Palestinian national claims on Israel will end.

Now, let's get those peace talks started!

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