Israel has no intention of compromising on its demand that any future parameters
for negotiations include a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the
Jewish people, senior Israeli officials said Monday.
These comments came
as Quartet envoys were scheduled to meet for a second time in two days in New
York Monday night to try and hammer out a formula for a return to
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that would prevent Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas from announcing a statehood bid at the UN during his
General Assembly address there on Friday.
Quartet meets in New York to avert Palestinian UN crisis
UN secretary general meets with Abbas before UN bid
The Quartet envoys are
reportedly still working on a formula that would essentially have Israel agree,
albeit with reservations, to enter talks on the basis of the pre- 1967 lines
with mutual swaps, while the Palestinians would agree to a formula that makes
mention of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Palestinians have reportedly objected to any formulation of Israel as a Jewish
state, Israel – which originally was adamantly opposed to mentioning the
pre-1967 lines – has moderated its position on that matter, and is willing to
agree to enter talks on that basis if it is made clear that it has
On the Jewish state issue, however, the senior officials
said there was no room for flexibility.
According to the officials, a
Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people was critical
not only because it would signal that descendants of Palestinian refugees would
return to a future Palestinian state – not to Israel – but also because it would
rule out any possible future irredentist claims by Israeli-Arabs to link up with
a future Palestinian state.
Israeli officials said the concern was that
once there was a Palestinian state, Beduin in the south, or Israeli-Arabs in the
Galilee, would possibly start movements to link up with the new
Accepting Israel as a Jewish state would not only put to rest the
dreams of Palestinian refugee return, but any possible future irredentist claims
Quartet envoy Tony Blair related to this issue in an ABC
interview on Sunday, saying that “everybody knows that you can’t have a
situation in which a state of Israel – you’ve got to be Jewish to live in the
State of Israel. There’s no intention of doing that. On the other hand, what the
Israelis want to know is – if there is an agreement between the Palestinians and
the Israelis – that’s it: That’s the end of all claims and the essential
character of the State of Israel is preserved.”
Diplomatic officials said
that a sign the Quartet was making progress would be if their meetings moved
from lower-level envoys to the level of principals: US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov and the UN’s Ban.
The discussions among the envoys
of the Quartet continued even though Abbas met with Ban on Monday in New York
and informed him of the Palestinian intention to apply for UN
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to fly to
New York late Tuesday evening, is slated to meet with Ban on Wednesday, a few
hours after the prime minister meets with US President Barack Obama on the
sidelines of the General Assembly meeting.
On Monday night Netanyahu
called on Abbas to begin negotiations with him in New York that would continue
in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Netanyahu’s comments came in response to a
filmed statement Abbas made on his plane to New York, saying “I’m ready to meet
with [Netanyahu] at any time.”
No Netanyahu-Abbas meeting is currently
scheduled during Netanyahu’s five-day trip to New York.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Monday at a
lecture to haredi students at the Lander Institute in Jerusalem that the US
believes that negotiations between the sides are the only solution to creating
two states for two peoples: a Jewish state and a Palestinian state “that will
live side-by-side in peace and security.”
Shapiro said that the
difficulty in getting the sides back to negotiations stems from the deep
distrust between the two. He said that negotiations can only succeed if there is
an understanding of the framework of the negotiations, something the US and the
Quartet were currently working on. He added that these efforts would continue –
even if there was a vote at the UN.
Shapiro said that the US was opposed
to unilateral steps from either side, including an Israeli halt to the transfer
of tax revenues to the PA, a move advocated by some in the government. He
continued that this money paid the salaries of PA personnel who ensure normal
life in the PA, stating that three days ago at the donor’s conference in New
York, Israel supported providing funds to the PA. The security cooperation
between Israel and the PA was important and should continue, he
Blair, meanwhile, alluded to the kind of language that was being
worked on in the Quartet when he said in the ABC interview that what was being
sought was “a way of putting together something that allows their claims and
legitimate aspirations for statehood to be recognized, whilst actually renewing
the only thing that’s going to produce a state, which is a negotiation directly
between the two sides.”
He said that the Quartet was working on a
statement that would serve as a “framework of reference for the negotiations”
that would set out “where we want to go on issues like borders” and “all the
main issues to be negotiated.”
Blair said a timeline was an important
element of this statement. A time frame for the negotiations has indeed been a
long-standing Palestinian demand. While at first Netanyahu was opposed to any
deadlines, last year he said publicly on a number of occasions that he felt
negotiations could be completed within a year.
Blair said that a Quartet
document agreed to by both sides would take the sting out of a UN resolution
since it would be clear that the agreement would have to be
Meanwhile, at a special session of the Knesset on Monday that
dealt with the events in the UN, opposition leader Tzipi Livni blamed the
Palestinians’ unilateral pursuit of a state on Netanyahu.
Israel no longer understand Israel’s policies or what it wants,” Livni said.
“The prime minister is not believed.
This government’s diplomatic
stupidity is putting the US in a corner. America is making sure we won’t be
isolated, but what is our government doing? “The time has come for the prime
minister to stop preventing a diplomatic process. If he does, a vote in the UN
won’t be necessary and we will be able to remain a Jewish, democratic state.
Netanyahu can still make decisions to prevent the vote in the UN. It’s still not
Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein responded that Livni
should consider behaving with more national responsibility.
“When I need
an expert doctor, I make sure that all his patients haven’t died,” Edelstein
said. “Here comes Livni, who backed the disengagement and said it would make the
world love us, and now she wants to give us advice. She failed at negotiations
and didn’t achieve anything, and now she wants to tell us what to
do.”Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.