Jerusalem, Aug. 12 - Israel is ready to give up land to make peace with the Palestinians, but cannot do so until the Palestinians pursue an agreement with Israel rather than unilateral statehood, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on Friday to 19 senior diplomats. The diplomats are visiting Israel on a fact-finding mission sponsored by The Israel Project (TIP).
“We are committed to the peace talks. We are willing to negotiate. All we need is a partner,” Oren said in his address to 18 ambassadors and a senior diplomat from four continents who are participating in a five-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The peace process, Oren predicted, will be “exquisitely painful. It’s going to deal with areas that are sacred to the Jewish people. We understand that having an agreement with the Palestinians will involve giving up lands. That will be painful, and it will also be a risk.”
But, added Oren, “If they are willing to do that, then we have a government that is willing to do this.”
Instead, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA leaders have spent the past several months trying to garner support for them to unilaterally declare a state and avoid returning to the negotiating table. Abbas abandoned talks with Israel almost a year ago after Israel declined to extend a self-imposed construction moratorium.
The Palestinians’ plans to go to the United Nations General Assembly next month to gain approval for their one-sided quest may make sense on paper, but, said Oren, “in reality it isn’t going to happen. (Abbas) isn’t creating a state because he wants peace; he is doing it to better wage war against Israel. That is why this will never happen. We can’t ignore that reality.”
Added Oren, “We would be the first ones to recognize a Palestinian state if it were on the basis of peace. Unfortunately, that is just not the reality here.”
The Israeli ambassador noted that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his invitation that he is willing to negotiate anywhere, anytime the Palestinians are ready and even went on Arabic TV to extend the offer.
The senior diplomats’ trip is sponsored by The Israel Project, an American non-profit educational organization that provides facts, analysis and background information about Israel and the Middle East to the media, public officials and the public.
The diplomats taking part in the mission are:
Albania: Ambassador Gilbert Galanxhi and Etleva Galanxhi
Barbados: Ambassador John E. Beale and Leila Mol Beale
Belize: Ambassador Nestor Enrique Mendez and Elvira Rosela Mendez
Benin: Ambassador Sagbe Cyrille Oguin and Hortense Dossa Oguin
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Miroslav Vujicic, Chief of the Cabinet of the Chairman of the Presidency
Burkina Faso: Ambassador Paramanga Ernest Yonli
Dominica: Ambassador Hubert John Charles
Dominican Republic: Ambassador Anibal De Castro
Grenada: Ambassador Gillian Margaret Susan Bristol
Haiti: Ambassador Louis Harold Joseph
Liberia: Ambassador William Bull and Cecelia Zina Freeman Bull
Macedonia: Ambassador Zoran Jolevski and Suzana Jolevska
Mongolia: Ambassador Bekhbat Khasbazar
Montenegro: Ambassador Srdjan Darmanovic and Aneta Spaic
Slovakia: Ambassador Peter Burian and Nina Burianova
St. Lucia: Ambassador Michael Louis
Timor-Leste: Ambassador Constancio C. Pinto
Trinidad & Tobago: Ambassador Neil Parsan
Uganda: Ambassador Perezi Kanunanwire and Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire