International sanctions against Israel, should peace talks fail, pose a greater danger to the country’s future than the possibility of missiles falling on Tel Aviv, warned former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
It is therefore important that Israel accepts the framework document that US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to unveil in the near future, setting out the terms for future negotiations, Oren said.
A framework agreement that keeps the negotiations alive is important because the alternative would be for the Palestinians to seek unilateral statehood at the United Nations, said Oren.
He spoke at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting on Monday along with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman.
“Once they go to the UN [and] declare a state, they will then claim that Israel is in occupation of a member state of the UN,” Oren said.
“They will go the international courts of justice and declare sanctions against us. We won’t have missiles coming down on our head, we will have sanctions coming down with great ramifications for the Israeli economy and society,” he said.
Shapiro explained that the US hopes to present the framework agreement before the end of April.
The US is now developing a framework document that would allow the negotiations to continue, a document that – based on input from the Israelis and Palestinians – addresses all the core issues, Shapiro said.
“It would involve both sides being willing to negotiate on the basis of a framework that contains things in it that are uncomfortable for them [and about which] they may have reservations,” Shapiro said.
The framework, he said, “is very detailed.” At this point in the process, “everyone fights over every word as they should because the stakes are very high,” he said.
“We believe that this framework and every subsequent agreement will have to ensure that Israel’s security is kept; that is essential,” said Shapiro.
He added that “there will have to be mutual recognition at the end of the process.”
Shapiro explained that the US was “well aware of Israel’s desire to retain communities beyond the Green Line that have developed since 1967.”
The document would also address Palestinians concerns, he said.
“There has to be a clear opportunity for a Palestinian state to emerge that is viable and meets Palestinian aspiration. And there has to be a resolution of all the core issues, refugees, Jerusalem and all the others,” Shapiro said.
He said that he believed that in spite of the general pessimism about the process, factors existed that could lead to success of the process.
There was an atmosphere of hope that accompanied past negotiations that does not exist now, Shapiro acknowledged.
Polls indicate 70 percent of the Israeli public wants a twostate solution. But, Shapiro said, the average Israeli doesn’t believe that negotiations for that solution can succeed.
That kind of pessimism, he said, “might not be the worst thing in the world. Lower expectations can give leaders more space to operate.”
The fact that the regional attention is elsewhere also helps create a better environment for success, he said.
The US, he said, also learned from past negotiations the importance of harnessing support from regional Arab leaders, who in the past were unclear how best to help the process.
He recalled that US Secretary of State Kerry had convened the Arab League, asked them to reaffirm its 2002 initiative and to modify it to support minor land swaps to adjust the pre-1967 lines.
Kerry has continued to engage these leaders and to meet with them every six to eight weeks, he said.