In news I am not completely comfortable with, we hear that Israel has officially accepted the proposal of the Quartet to enter into resumed peace negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accepted the Quartet’s proposal for the resumption of peace negotiations and a final status agreement within one year. Netanyahu made the decision after meeting with the eight-minister forum.
A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said: “Israel welcomes the Quartet’s call to hold direct talks with no preconditions with the Palestinian Authority as previously proposed by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Though Israel has a number of reservations which it will raise during negotiations, it calls on the PA to do the same and enter into direct talks without delay.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman Roni Sofer said: “Immediately after the Quartet’s announcement, the prime minister declared that Israel accepts the concept primarily because it concerns direct talks with the Palestinians which has been the prime minister’s aim since his election.
“Solutions can be reached only through negotiations, even if they are tough. Nevertheless, the prime minister and the government have reservations which will be raised during the talks. The prime minister is completely aligned with President Obama, the US administration and Israel’s many friends in Europe and the world.”
I’m not sure I understand the need for a defined deadline in these negotiations. That is bound to bring about frustration and possibly disaster. In any event it is still not entirely clear to me why the big rush to enter peace talks when the Palestinian Authority is still officially united with Hamas, unless it is to keep the international community quiet, and knowing that the Palestinians will no doubt miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
And sure enough the Palestinians have already begun laying down preconditions:
The Quartet’s recent statement does not mention a settlement construction freeze, but does note the Road Map. Shaath claims that the fact that the Quartet has decided that both sides will have to interpret the statement as they see fit – without outlining any concrete steps – is the reason that negotiations have been going on for two decades and may be the reason why they stall again.
The Fatah official described the proposal as “very vague” and called for clear terms: “If the Quartet does not want clear terms it means it has given up on the Road Map and UN resolutions 242 and 1515.”
He further said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuinterpreted the Quartet statement one way while the Palestinians interpreted it as dropping the demand for a settlement construction freeze. “Israel’s statement about plans to build 1,100 housing units in Gilo effectively abolished the Quartet statement.
“We do not intent to accept this statement unless Netanyahu accepts it publically as we understand it. Netanyahu must immediately suspend settlement construction, including that for natural growth.”
He insisted on explicit statements to that effect from Netanyahu himself and said that if both parties would be left to interpret the statement themselves negations will take another 20 years.
“Netanyahu must tell his people that he is freezing settlement construction so that talks based on 1967 borders and land swaps can commence. He must do this for the future of the people in Israel, not for the Palestinians.”
The Fatah leader also raised doubts as to Quartet envoy Tony Blair’s ability to continue his role. “Blair has effectively become the advocate of such proposals and there are doubts whether he can continue to act as a neutral mediator.” He stressed that the PA has not filed a motion to end his role, however it was recently reported that the PLO intends to declare him “persona non grata.”
Way to go to prove your seriousness in your desire for a state Mr. Shaath.
As Diana Muir Applebaum wrote in her incisive article in Jewish Ideas Daily, “Settling for Statehood“:
The 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly has just begun. Unless a diplomatic miracle happens, that body will soon be asked to approve what amounts to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. Palestinian spokesmen say they had no choice but to make their end run around serious negotiations with Israel—because what Israel is offering in such negotiations is just a fraction of the territory to which the Palestinians are entitled.
To appreciate the hubris in this justification, it helps to recall a historical fact: Virtually no nation founded in modern times has been born in possession of all the territory to which it could lay plausible claim. Settling for half a loaf—that is, statehood in a territory significantly smaller than the historic or desired homeland—is the price that most national liberation movements have paid for self-determination and international recognition.
Just this summer, the primarily Christian and animist South Sudan assumed statehood with gratitude and hope, despite a border that excludes the heavily Christian province of Abyei. Meanwhile large, historic peoples, including Kurds, Tibetans, Baluch, Pashtun, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Uyghurs, can only dream of an opportunity for national self-determination. Most would accept sovereignty even over a piece of their historic homeland no larger than a postage stamp, as long as it was a place in which they could determine their own fate and cultivate their unique history and culture.
In 1937, the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky asked “merely for a small fraction” of the “vast piece of land” that included modern-day Israel. And in 1948, that is precisely what the United Nations offered the Jews, reserving the larger part of the land west of the Jordan for Arabs. Jews accepted the UN’s offer even though the heart of the biblical kingdoms, Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, lay outside its borders. Arab leaders rejected the offer, launching a war to destroy the Jewish state instead of seizing the opportunity to build an Arab Palestine.
In contrast, if leaders of a national movement declare that they will not even negotiate until they have been promised every square inch of the land that they regard as their historic homeland, they are effectively announcing to the world that they are not prepared to assume a responsible place in the community of nations. If Palestinian leaders are serious about taking their place in this community, they will need to make the kind of concession that Ataturk and Garibaldi, Greece, Poland, India, and Israel made.
I don’t recommend holding your breath until that day comes though.