Even as US Secretary of State John Kerry has been keeping details of
Washington’s vision for a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal very much
under wraps, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz made clear Tuesday
that Jerusalem would oppose any attempt to introduce international forces into
“Some people are speaking about international forces, maybe
[in] the Jordan Valley or the hills and border areas, that will take care of
Israel’s future security,” Steinitz said in a speech at The Jerusalem Center for
Public Affairs (JCPA).
Steinitz, a close confidant and political ally of
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who also holds the Strategic Affairs and
Intelligence portfolios, said he would “vehemently” oppose any redeployment of
international forces instead of the IDF.
“The principle should be very
clear,” he stated. “The Palestinians should be able to control their lives, and
we should be able to control our security in our own hands.
security means survivability, and we have had very negative experiences with
international forces so far.”
He pointed to two examples in just the last
decade of international forces’ failure to provide Israel with security as
The first was the massive UNIFIL force that entered southern
Lebanon following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and under whose watch tens of
thousands of missiles found their way into Hezbollah’s hands.
example was Gaza, where the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the EU all had
different types of security personnel in place following Israel’s 2005
disengagement, but failed to prevent Hamas’s takeover of the territory and the
introduction of thousands of rockets and missiles there.
instability of the Middle East, Steinitz said, the security arrangements that
would be necessary in any future peace agreement must be such that Israel “will
be able to trust them, and our capacity to defend ourselves, regardless of new
developments that are totally unpredictable.”
For example, he said, one
vital element will be “a total demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and
our capacity to preserve, control and secure this demilitarization, come what
The two negative experiences with international forces in the South
and in the North “cannot repeat [themselves] in the West Bank,” he said, adding
that it was clear to the government that the only demilitarization Israel could
trust would be “supervised and enforced by Israeli forces.”
international relations minister said Israel was willing to make “very painful”
concessions for peace, “make very serious compromises,” and was ready for “a
two-states-for-two-peoples solution, but we want genuine peace, real peace, and
real security that we can trust.”
His words came just hours after Kerry,
in his first address to an American Jewish audience as secretary of state, made
a passionate case for renewed peace talks, calling on both sides to “summon the
courage” to negotiate.
“We are running out of time,” Kerry said at the
American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington on Monday. “We are
running out of possibilities.”
While reassuring the pro-Israel crowd that
America would always support and defend the Jewish state, Kerry warned that the
status quo in the region was unsustainable.
“A stalemate today will not
remain tomorrow,” Kerry said.
“In this conflict, the simple fact is
tomorrow is not guaranteed to look like today.”
Alluding to those he
called “cynics,” he added that “the people who think somehow because there is a
fence and because there’s been greater security and fewer people hurt, are
lulling themselves into a delusion that that somehow can be
He warned that “the absence of peace is perpetual
conflict...we will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and
counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a twostate
Since entering office in February, Kerry has been vocal about
his interest in solving the conflict.
In recent weeks, he has repeatedly
warned that time is running out for both a feasible peace agreement and for
American patience with political dithering from both sides.
In a speech
almost entirely devoted to the peace process, he acknowledged that his personal
interest in a resolution, and his tactics, were creating risks
“Let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m
raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another
chance,” he said. “So we can’t let the disappointments of the past hold the
He stressed that “I fully recognize the challenges and
predicament in which Israel finds itself, but I also firmly believe this is a
hopeful time if we choose to make it so. This can actually be a time for
possibility, a time for promise. I still believe peace is
Ready with a laundry list of the benefits of success and the
pitfalls that come with failure, Kerry noted that Israeli tourism – which lags
behind that of Cyprus due to fears of conflict – would boom if a final
settlement were reached.
“Quite simply, peace pays,” he said.
secretary of state also argued that “in reality, the dawn of a new era” – the
Arab Spring – “is exactly the kind of time to recast Israel’s relationships, to
change the narrative with a new generation that is starting to make its voice
He was answering critics in Israel who argue that instability in
the region makes this a time for entrenchment over risk-taking.
Palestinian front, Kerry asked the audience what would happen if the West Bank
economy bottomed out, with a collapse in confidence in the Palestinian
Authority. He warned that without a solution, political pressure would mount for
PA President Mahmoud Abbas to take Israel to the International Criminal
The secretary, who has visited Israel four times in the last four
months – nearly as many visits as his predecessor Hillary Clinton made in her
four years at the State Department – uttered familiar Hebrew phrases and quoted
the Bible that there was a future for the man of peace.
not met by giving in to doubts,” he said.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
also addressed the gathering, repeating her mantra that a Palestinian state was
the only way to keep Israel “both a Jewish state and a democratic state,” and
saying that a Palestinian state was not a favor toward the Palestinians, but a
“necessity for Israel.”
Kerry and Livni, who have met four times over the
past two weeks, met again in Washington on Monday. While in the past, Yizhak
Molcho, Netanyahu’s special envoy on the Palestinian issue, has taken part in
many of the Kerry-Livni meetings, he was not present at this one.