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The Palestinian refusal to negotiate peace

Maandag, Januari 4, 2010

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 4, 2010.

A commitment to peace has been a central goal of every Israeli
government. While Israeli efforts aimed at attaining peace have
resulted in the conclusion of peace treaties with both Egypt and
Jordan, Israel’s endeavors to achieve an equitable negotiated peace
agreement with its Palestinian neighbors have been repeatedly
rebuffed by the Palestinian leadership. The most recent example of
this enigmatic pattern of Palestinian behavior is the refusal by the
Palestinians to even renew peace negotiations with the new Israeli
government since the Israeli elections in early 2009.

The consistent rejection by Palestinians of Israeli peace initiatives
and its current refusal to negotiate leaves Israel questioning whether
its neighbors are in fact committed to peace.

Peace initiatives of the new Israeli government (April 2009 – the
present)

Since its inauguration in April 2009, the present Israeli Government
has sought ways to re-engage the leadership of the Palestinian
Authority (PA) in peace negotiations, which were unilaterally
suspended by the Palestinians following Israeli elections.

1. Two states for two peoples Israeli initiative

In a speech given at Bar-Ilan University on June 14, 2009, PM
Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinian nation-state,
living alongside a Jewish nation-state, in peace and security. In his
speech, the PM made clear that a Palestinian state would have to be
demilitarized so as not to endanger Israel’s security. The PM called
for the PA to begin negotiations immediately and without conditions
in order to realize the vision of two states for two peoples.

International praise: World leaders praised this significant Israeli step. The American
administration welcomed the speech, calling it “an important step.”
(White House website, 14 Jun 2009)

Similar sentiment was expressed by Bernard Kouchner, French
foreign minister (AFP, 15 Jun 2009).

Palestinian rejection: Netanyahu’s speech was rejected by the Palestinians. Saeb Erekat,
Senior Palestinian Negotiator stated that: “The peace process has
been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Tonight, Netanyahu has
flipped it over on its back.”(Al-Jazeera TV, 14 Jun 2009)

Similarly, PA Spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah, stated:
“Netanyahu’s remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all
efforts being made.” (Jerusalem Post, 14 Jun 2009)

Ahmed Bahar, acting chairman of the Palestinian Legislative
Council, said that the speech proved that “‘resistance’ [i.e. terrorism]
was the only way for Palestinians to receive the rights they
deserved.” (Al-Intiqad, 15 Jun 2009)

Following the speech, the sixth Fatah Conference, resolved to
“totally reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state”, to “adopt all
legitimate forms of struggle” against Israel, and “to be creative in
finding new forms of struggle and resistance.” (Fatah Political
Program, al-Ayyam, 11 Aug 2009)

Despite these repeated rejections, PM Netanyahu has specifically
reiterated his call for peace with the Palestinians several times since
June. PM Netanyahu is yet to receive a positive response from the
Palestinian Authority.

2. Israeli initiatives to improve the political climate vs. Palestinian
delegitimization

Recognizing that calls for a Palestinian state are necessary, but not
sufficient, for the realization of peace, extensive measures have been
implemented by the current Israeli government in order to improve
the political climate in the region, and to create facts on the ground
which advance reconciliation. The steps that Israel has taken include
measures to enhance freedom of movement both within the West
Bank, and between the West Bank and Israel.

These moves not only improve the quality of life of Palestinian
civilians, but also promote economic development. These measures
have contributed to the impressive and encouraging World Bank
statistics that show an 8% annual growth in the West Bank
economy, and the projection by Quartet Representative Tony Blair in
an interview with the New York Times of double digit annual rates of
growth.

In addition, recognizing the ease with which terror activities can
torpedo progress on the ground and in the negotiating room, and can
result in increased security restrictions in Palestinian areas, Israel has
taken steps to promote security cooperation with the Palestinians.

Although life in the West Bank has improved significantly as a
result of these combined Israeli efforts, Palestinian leaders continue
to pursue an international campaign to delegitimize Israel, hurt its
economy, and undermine its ability to defend itself.

Israeli initiative: The measures taken by the Israeli government to enhance freedom of
movement within the West Bank and between the West Bank and
Israel include: The removal of checkpoints and roadblocks: Israel has
decreased the number of checkpoints from 41 to fourteen; twelve of
which are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to facilitate
movement.

In addition, as of August 2009, Israel removed 147
unmanned road blocks. The extension of operating hours at crossing
points between Israel and the West Bank, including the Allenby
Bridge Border Crossing to Jordan; and the upgrade of the
Gilboa/Jalama crossing to allow for vehicles and not simply
pedestrians to use the crossing. This has led to a significant increase
in traffic, and retail activity.

In addition, in order to further ease restrictions, and still
preclude, to the extent possible, disruptions of the peace process by
terrorist elements, Israel has closely cooperated with the PA in
building the capacity of the Palestinian civil security forces and in
improving coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian security
services. For example since 2008 there has been intensive ongoing
coordination IDF and the Palestinian Police Forces; and, Israel has
worked closely with U.S. General Dayton and his team in their
efforts to organize, train and upgrade the PA’s National Security
Forces battalions.

Palestinian rejection Despite Israeli confidence building measures, the PA has orchestrated
a campaign in international fora to delegitimize Israel and undermine
its economy and security. For example, the PA is a driving force
behind the establishment of the politically motivated Goldstone
Mission by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), and has led the
campaign to implement its one-sided conclusions both in the HRC
(16 Oct 2009), and the UNGA (5 Nov 2009), in order to delegitimize
the actions taken by Israel to protect its citizens.

Simultaneously, Palestinian groups are leading campaigns to
arrest Israeli leaders abroad through the abuse of ‘universal
jurisdiction’ clauses – the latest such incident being the arrest
warrant issued in the UK (14 Dec 2009) against former FM Livni.
Moreover, the PA is leading a political initiative aimed to foster
support in the UN Security Council for the unilateral declaration of
Palestinian statehood, thus allowing the Palestinians to both bypass
negotiations and unilaterally dictate its position regarding future
borders.

A further international campaign involves introducing PA-sponsored
resolutions condemning Israel at UN professional bodies such as the
Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health
Organization, where no other nation is singled out for criticism. The
PA is also leading an international effort to boycott, divest and
sanction Israel. Indeed, at the sixth Fatah Conference a platform was
adopted calling “to boycott the Israeli products inside the territories
and abroad through popular moves… and work to escalate an
international campaign towards boycotting Israel and its products
and its institutions.” (Fatah Political Program, al-Ayyam, 11 Aug
2009)

3. Israeli restraint of settlement activity

Israeli initiative: On November 25, 2009, the Israeli government
announced an unprecedented ten month moratorium on new
residential housing construction in the West Bank, which PM
Netanyahu described as a step “designed to encourage the
resumption of peace talks” and as “an opportunity to move forward
in the path of peace.”

International praise: The Israeli move was welcomed by the US.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the decision was a
“helpful move toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,”(State
Dept. website 25 Nov 2009).

The US special envoy for Mideast peace, former Senator
George Mitchell, also welcomed the move, stating stated that “it is
more than any Israeli government has done before and can help
movement toward agreement between the parties,” (State Dept.
Website 25 Nov 2009)

Similar sentiment was expressed by France’s Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner, who welcomed the move and called it a “step in
the right direction.” (EJPress, 26 Nov 2009)

Palestinian rejection: Palestinian spokesmen rejected the moratorium
even before the official Israeli announcement (Fox News, 25 Nov
2009).

The Fatah Central Committee claimed that PM Netanyahu
was trying to avoid peace, stated that the Israeli decision showed
Netanyahu was: “continuing to avoid the peace process and ignore
all opportunities to achieve peace,” (Jerusalem Post, 26 Nov 2009)

Consistent Palestinian rejection of Israeli initiatives

The Palestinians rejections of PM Netanyahu’s many initiatives in
pursuit of peace are not unique: they are just the latest in a string of
Palestinian rejections of Israeli peace initiatives in the past decade.

Israeli initiatives Oslo (1993)

The Oslo Accords constituted a series
of interim agreements, intended to bring peace between Israel and
her Palestinian neighbors.

International praise: US President Clinton referred to Oslo as “the
peace of the brave” (BBC, September 13, 1993).

Palestinian rejection: The Palestinians fundamentally breached their
obligations under the Oslo Accords, responding to the Israeli
implementation of Oslo with a wave of suicide terrorism in Israel’s
cities.

Camp David

In 2000, at Camp David, then Israeli PM Ehud Barak offered PA
Chairman Arafat a series of far-reaching Israeli concessions as part of
a comprehensive peace offer. In exchange, Arafat was asked to put
an end to the conflict.

International praise: Then U.S. President Bill Clinton described PM
Barak’s actions as “courageous”.

Palestinian rejection: The Palestinians rejected the Israeli offer
out-of-hand – no counter-offer was even made. In response to the
Israeli offer of peace, the PA launched (Sept 2000) a pre-planned
wave of violence, known as the Second Intifada, and characterized
by unprecedented terrorist attacks killing 1,184 Israelis.

Disengagement

The Israeli government, under PM Sharon advanced a plan to
disengage Israeli forces and remove settlements from the Gaza Strip
and northern Samaria. The plan was implemented in August 2005.
Israel saw the disengagement as an initiative towards peace.

International praise: US President Bush praised The Israeli people for
their “courageous and painful step” and stated: “now that Israel has
withdrawn, the way forward is clear. The Palestinians must show
the world that they will fight terrorism and govern in a peaceful
way.” (Radio Address, August 27, 2005)

UK PM Tony Blair called the disengagement a “historic step,”
stating: “I would like to reiterate the British government’s full
support. I greatly admire the courage with which you have developed
and implemented this policy. I believe you are right to see
disengagement as an historic opportunity to pursue a better future
for Israelis and Palestinians.” (Letter from Blair to PM Sharon, August
16, 2005)

Similar praise emanated from the U.N., Turkey, Morocco,
Italy, South Africa and Norway.

Palestinian rejection: Despite Israel’s disengagement, Palestinians
continued to fire rockets on Israel from the Gaza Strip. Furthermore,
rather than using disengagement as an opportunity to achieve peace,
the Palestinians elected the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas to
power.

In June 2007, Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in a
violent coup. Under Hamas, the constant barrage of rocket fire on
Israel’s southern communities increased dramatically with over
10,000 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli populated areas by
Hamas and other terror groups.

Palestinian rejection: Abbas rejected the offers and explained to the
Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl that he had rejected Olmert’s
proposals because “the gaps were too wide,” Abbas continued: ” l
will wait for Israel to freeze settlements – until then, in the West
Bank we have a good reality – the people are living a normal life.”
(Washington Post, May 2009)

Conclusion

Israel has achieved negotiated peace agreements, which have turned
previous avowed enemies, such as Jordan and Egypt, into peace
partners. These agreements were made possible by the courageous
leadership of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, who prepared their
people for peace, and made the compromises necessary to achieve
peace at the negotiating table. The Palestinians, however, expect
somehow to achieve peace, solely on their own terms, without even
sitting down to talk.

Israel’s current government has already demonstrated, in word and in
deed, its commitment to advance peace and, like all Israeli
governments in the past, is willing to make the compromises needed
to reach that peace. Yet the Palestinians refuse to compromise or
even to negotiate. It would be a tragedy if the Palestinian leadership
once again choose the “all or nothing” approach and reject the
possibility of forging an historic peace agreement.

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