New talks, old lessons (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Zalman Shoval 06/17/12)
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Some recent headlines maintain that "the Palestinians have forgone
preconditions for renewing negotiations with Israel," but that really
is a farce. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told French
President Francois Hollande (why didn´t he tell the prime minister of
Israel?) that he would not demand that Israel stop building beyond
the Green Line or agree in advance to the 1967 borders to resume
negotiations. But he did immediately raise two new conditions:
release Palestinian prisoners and allow the Palestinian Authority to
import more weapons for its police force.
If these conditions are met, "it is likely that we will be able to
sit with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for a non-obligatory
dialogue, but official negotiations will be held only after a
freezing of settlement construction and recognition of 1967 borders,"
Abbas added. So basically, he has the same preconditions, just
slightly (but not really) altered.
The deceit is so transparent that one could laugh out loud. But as
per usual, despite the fact that Israel has made no preconditions,
international and domestic parties will inevitably complain: The
Palestinians are being flexible ó why aren´t you?"
The Palestinians´ demand to be allowed to import weapons is not new,
but it takes on a particularly negative significance in light of
recent events: Not only has the Palestinian Authority relaxed its
adherence to its security commitments, recent negotiations between
the authority and Hamas on the establishment of a unity government
raises warning flags, perhaps even a severe warning, that should curb
any initiative to transfer weapons to the PA.
In any event, Abbas already notified Israel that if it does not
accept his conditions, both the new and the old ones, the
Palestinians will again approach the United Nations for recognition
as a non-member state. This is a rather hollow threat, at least until
November. In other words, the Palestinians´ strategy has not changed:
Avoid negotiations and promote its goals via bypass routes. That way
they can avoid having to deal with the real pertinent questions:
refugees, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, recognition of Israel as a
Jewish state, and so on.
The Palestinians back this strategy up with a delegitimization attack
intended to negate Israel´s demands and reject the very notion that
the Jewish people have a right to a state. The delegitimization
campaign is topped by criticism of Israeli settlement construction
beyond the Green Line. Unfortunately, in this realm, there is plenty
of room for self-criticism.
It has been 45 years since the Six-Day War and when it comes to the
territories we conquered, the cost of our public diplomacy failure is
constantly growing. We failed to properly present our historic right
to the areas we captured. Even though the U.S. has refrained from
joining the chorus of people who categorize our presence in the West
Bank as "illegal," but instead refer to it as "an obstacle to peace,"
almost no attention is paid to the important international legal
experts who maintain that Israel´s right to the territories is no
less than that of the Palestinians, and may even surpass it.
It is critically important that in future negotiations, compromises
aren´t perceived as the restoration of stolen land to its original
owner, but rather the relinquishing of an asset that is legally ours.
It is a serious problem that although most of the countries in the
world, led by the U.S., at least legally recognize our security
concerns (as proven by declarations by former Presidents Ronald
Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, U.N. Security Council
Resolution 242 and the Camp David Accords), the Israeli government
has consistently failed to properly explain these aspects of borders
and territory. Facing the Palestinians´ deceit and most of the
world´s hypocrisy, we can´t just rely on our own belief in our
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