Anybody who thinks it is possible to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a room to negotiate a comprehensive deal is “daydreaming,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special envoy to the Middle East, said Thursday.
As a result, Mladenov said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the goal now is much more narrow: to create the conditions that will enable negotiations in the future.
To this end the Middle East Quartet, of which the UN is a member, along with the US, Russia and the EU, is working on an “extensive report on the situation on the ground.”
Mladenov, who carries the title of special coordinator for the Middle East peace process and personal representative of the UN secretary-general to the PLO and the PA, said this document will spell out the impediments to two-state solution and how to move forward.
The goal, he said, is “trying to rebuild some trust between the two sides so that they can inevitably come back to a full process, and also to keep the international community engaged in a constructive way on how we can support such a process when the parties come together.”
Mladenov, a former defense and foreign minister in Bulgaria, rejected the idea that what was being discussed was essentially an updated version of the Quartet’s 2002 road map to Middle East peace that proved an unsuccessful way to end the second intifada.
“Words are very loaded in this environment, that is why we’re trying to avoid using certain words, because people fall into concepts they have from the past,” he said. “The goal is really to look at what are the risks, what is the way forward, and how can we, as the international community, help. Now you can call it a pathway, road map, highway, sidewalk, whatever you want, but the goal is to keep everybody focused on this issue because otherwise we are risking continuing this status quo on the ground.”
Mladenov has been one of those mentioned as a possible successor to UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, especially since the next secretary- general is expected to come from Eastern Europe.
He said he does not think Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are possible “the way things stand now.”
With these comments he joined a growing list of international leaders, including most recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have said they believe a comprehensive agreement is not ripe now.
Mladenov said he did not feel the world always gets the real sense of insecurity felt in Israel, “because very few countries in the world have to live with the daily threat of the risks that people here face.”
He added, however, that “the world needs to also understand that how you deal with these risks and threats very much also says a lot of things about how you want to see your country in the future.”
That is why, he said, that in addition to taking security measures to “keep people safe,” it is necessary to “put into place a political prospect that drives people away from violence toward something that is more constructive, which is obviously hope for the future.”
Regarding Israel’s lack of trust in the UN, Mladenov said he understands that Israel likes “to have the UN as a punching bag.”
“There is no other UN and any other version of the UN would be a worse version for the world, so let us hang on to what we have today, not just for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of just about everyone else in the rest of the world,” he said.
Asked whether he felt Israel was treated fairly at the UN, he replied, “Not always.”
As to how this could be changed, he suggested talking “to your Foreign Ministry about that, not me.
You are a sovereign state, you have your foreign policy, you have your foreign policy establishment, it is their job to present your views to the world, it is not my job to present them.”
Regarding the recent tension between Jerusalem with Ban over comments interpreted in Israel as justifying terrorism, Mladenov backed his boss.
“The secretary-general’s message was very clear and I fully subscribe to it,” he said. “When you have an occupation of one people by another people, that always drives frustration. Ultimately that frustration drives violence. It doesn’t justify terror, but it does drive that, it creates the conditions under which that violence becomes acceptable, possible and a fact of life. It doesn’t mean at all it justified terror. Nothing justified terror whether it is here or anywhere else in the world.”
The full interview is to appear in Sunday’s Jerusalem Post