Jerusalem, Sept. 19 - “It’s a shame to wait to restart peace negotiations when the paradigm of two states living side by side in peace and security is accepted by the parties,” said Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor at a one-day briefing on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N that was organized by The Israel Project. The replacement of peace talks with unilateral actions is not helpful to peace, he added.
“In negotiations, there is ‘give and take’, in fact that is the Hebrew term for negotiations, and the U.N. does not provide this,” added Meridor. He said that Israel is ready to enter negotiations without preconditions, “because we need to sit down and agree.”
Meridor urged the Palestinian leadership to begin peace talks in New York this week.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace talks ever since the Palestinians walked out of the last round of talks a year ago because Israel did not extend a building-freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas has made the building freeze a precondition for peace talks with Israel, a tactic that analysts say is irreversible in the face of public opinion.
The question of construction must be settled in negotiations, according to Israel.
Meridor then explained: “There is a difference between demands and preconditions; but accepting Israel as a Jewish state has never been a precondition. We say no preconditions. We are not saying, for example, what the future borders will be. Come to the table and say you want you want. You do not have to accept our demands before we start.”
The Netanyahu administration is the first in Israel’s history to stop settlement building, Meridor pointed out, which speaks to its desire for peace. “People said Netanyahu would not utter the words ‘Palestinian state’ and he does, again and again. There is willingness on his part,” said Meridor.
“We want Abu Mazen [President Abbas] to make these decisions so that we can have these debates. Debate is part of our open society. We have our own disagreements, just look at Rothschild Boulevard [the location of many recent social demonstrations in Tel Aviv] but this is natural. Easy? It’s not easy. Possible? Yes, it’s possible,” said Meridor.