Negotiations with the Palestinians have yet to begin, but MKs debated their
merits and details with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday.
The meeting comes ahead of a visit
to Israel by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday. He is scheduled to
immediately meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and on Friday with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
British Foreign Minister
William Hague is also expected to arrive in the region on Thursday for talks
with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The EU, which last year urged the
Obama administration to take a more active role in the diplomatic process, has
so far given its full backing to Kerry’s attempts to restart the peace process.
In an apparent effort to create a positive atmosphere before Kerry’s visit, the
IDF announced on Tuesday that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had
approved the extension of the Gazan fishing area from 5 km.
The area was restricted following Gaza missile fire on the South on
March 21. In November, Israel extended the fishing area from 5 km. to 9.5 km. as
part of the Egyptian- brokered truce that brought an end to Operation Pillar of
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman
opened the meeting on Tuesday by pointing out that expectations for the Oslo
Accords and Gaza Disengagement yielded very different results.
also asserted that Abbas had lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinians
and that, in his opinion, it is impossible to solve the conflict in the current
situation, it can only be managed.
“There’s no magic solution to the
conflict with the Palestinians,” he said. “Why are foreign ministers always
here? Why are they so obsessed with the Palestinian issue?” Livni, the minister
responsible for peace talks, responded that, while she thinks the conflict can
be solved, even those who don’t should agree to peace talks.
minister described two views on peace talks in the government: “First, some
think we have the right to the whole land and [need] to have sovereignty over
all of it and continue building. That is not my view.
I believe in our
right to the whole Land of Israel, but that we need to work toward a solution in
which we will have two sovereign states, one next to the other.”
the committee that “the situation in which there is a diplomatic freeze is
dangerous and can lead the Palestinians to be frustrated.”
When there are
no negotiations, the PA takes unilateral steps like becoming an observer state
in the United Nations, she explained, and the world continues to put pressure on
Israel with boycotts and appeals to the UN.
The PA plans to apply to 16
additional international organizations, she added.
“We want the PA to
know that peace talks are the only game in town,” Livni said.
agreement is reached, the justice minister explained, the resulting Palestinian
state must be demilitarized and the refugee issue must end.
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Livni faced questioning from
right-wing MKs who oppose her views on the peace process.
willingness to have talks without preconditions has not changed. Even giving
into preconditions has not brought the Palestinians back to the negotiating
table, so now the offer [of talks] lies at their doorstep, not ours,” MK Reuven
Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said, adding that the government must learn the lessons
of recent efforts to restart talks.
Rivlin also asked Livni whether her
stances are the official government position, and pointed out that there seem to
be differences of opinion within the cabinet.
“Two states for two nations
is not the official government position. It’s not in the coalition guidelines,
and not coincidentally.
This might be [the prime minister’s] and your
opinion, but not a government stance,” MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi)
While Livni spoke, Struck interjected several times, exclaiming
“This is our land.”
On the way out of the meeting, Livni told Struck:
“It’s our land, but the question is if the state will remain ours or
“How can you expect the Palestinians to start talks when our
government opposes a Palestinian state?” MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) asked
MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) chimed in, saying the government
hasn’t made an official decision on the matter, and MK Mordechai Yogev (Bayit
Yehudi) said that a twostate solution is “detached from reality.”
Bar-Lev (Labor) wondered if Livni is a “lone wolf in the government or a fig
leaf covering the government’s true policy on the Palestinian issue?” “Do
government decisions legalizing outposts help or harm your efforts?” MK Nachman
Shai (Labor) asked.
Livni retorted to Bar-Lev and Shai that the political
environment she is in is a direct result of their party not joining the
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.