Meridor: Talks won’t ‘yield results’
Deputy PM fears Palestinians will avoid making “tough decisions.”
Dan Meridor Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
With US Mideast
envoy George Mitchell scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu on Wednesday and finally begin US mediated indirect talks with
the Palestinians, Deputy Premier Dan Meridor – who along with Defense
Minister Ehud Barak represents the “moderate” flank in Netanyahu’s
seven-minister inner cabinet – told The
Jerusalem Post a day earlier that indirect talks would lead
In an interview that will be published in full in
Friday’s Post, Meridor, who is
in charge of intelligence and atomic affairs, said he was afraid the
Palestinians were trying to avoid making “tough decisions,” by
maneuvering the US and the world into imposing a solution to the
A senior government official, meanwhile, said late
Tuesday evening that it was not certain that the indirect talks would
start as expected with the Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting on Wednesday, and
placed the blame on the Palestinians for adding an additional hurdle.
The official would not elaborate.
According to the official,
Netanyahu and his staff completed all the preparations for starting the
talks, and would be glad to start them at the meeting with Mitchell. The
official said the hope was that the Palestinians would not, as he said
they appeared to be doing, delay the resumption of negotiations.
said a Palestinian attempt to avoid making tough decisions and bring
about an imposed solution “won’t work.”
“This won’t work,”
Meridor told the Post. “And I
think the Americans tell this to the Palestinians. I think the corridor
we go through, the entrance we go through to the [direct] talks –
indirect talks, proximity talks – will not yield results. I hope yes,
but think not. Everyone will want to pull America to their own side, and
they won’t get closer, [rather] they will get farther apart...
think we need to go quickly to direct talks, in which we’ll have to
make tough decisions, and they will have to make tough decisions,”
No one, he said, not the US, the European Union or
the UN, can decide “for us that French Hill [in northeast Jerusalem] is
Palestine, or Ma’aleh Adumim [east of the capital] is Palestine. They
cannot do that. We need to come to an agreement.”
agreement, Meridor said, will only come through direct negotiations and
tough decisions by both parties. He defined tough decisions as those
that go against the “expectations of your own people.”
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said Menachem Begin’s decision at Camp David in 1978 to cede Sinai to
Egypt, as well as Anwar Sadat’s decision to come to Jerusalem in 1977,
were examples of “tough decisions.” He also cited the Oslo process,
which he voted against and thinks was a mistake, and Netanyahu’s
announcement last summer at Bar-Ilan University that he would accept a
demilitarized Palestinian state, as examples of tough decisions made by
“I haven’t seen Palestinian leaders taking tough
decisions, this is the bottom line,” Meridor said. For Palestinians,
comparable “tough decisions” would be acknowledgement that Palestinian
refugees would not be allowed to return to Israel, or the acceptance of a
Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one.
Because of a failure
of the Palestinian leadership to make the tough decisions needed to “end
the conflict,” Meridor said he was skeptical of the likelihood of
getting an agreement within a short time.
negotiations for an agreement – a paradigm that represents a top-down
approach to solving the conflict – what is needed in parallel is to
continue with Netanyahu’s bottom-up approach that he articulated at
Bar-Ilan University, Meridor said. This approach, which he said the
government was committed to, includes building more institutions for the
future Palestinian state, and improving both the economy and law and
order in the West Bank.
Israel, Meridor said, has a “very keen
interest” in moving the peace process forward, even if everything could
not be solved right away. He said it was an illusion to believe that the
relatively “good situation now, with no terror,” was sustainable over
the long term without diplomatic progress.
“Because if there are
not two states here, there will be one state,” Meridor said. “If this
one state is to be what we know to be a democratic state, there is a
danger to the whole Zionist project. Because you can’t have a South
Africa here. Nobody wants it, nobody has that in mind.”
Palestinians “already preparing the ground for the failure”
during a briefing at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee on Tuesday morning, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of
Military Intelligence’s Research Division, told MKs that the
Palestinians were “already preparing the ground for the failure” of the
He said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas wanted to paint Israel in a negative light in order to bring about
its global isolation.
“Although the PA president is interested
in an agreement with Israel, his flexibility on the core issues is
limited, and we don’t see any real attempt at being more flexible on the
essential matters,” Baidatz said.
He added that the Palestinians
– and, for that matter, the Syrians – were interested in securing a
peace deal with Israel, but that they felt that Netanyahu was not a good
partner for talks.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet
with Mitchell on Wednesday, and even though this is being touted as the
long sought after start of indirect, or proximity, talks, the modalities
of how it will all work are still unclear. Mitchell is then expected to
meet with Abbas on Friday. He is scheduled to leave the region on
This is the same type of shuttle diplomacy that Mitchell
has engaged in over the past year, and one senior diplomatic source said
it was not clear what would be different now under the “proximity
talks” rubric. The official said that the immediate issues that would
need to be discussed would be the modalities and goals of the new
framework, as well as what issue to discuss first.
Although the Palestinians are keen on the two sides first tackling the
question of borders, Israel wants the first issues to be security and
the Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Even though the
so-called core issues – Jerusalem, security, borders
and refugees – are to be discussed during the indirect talks, one
official noted that other preconditions the Palestinians set for the
talks, such as a complete building freeze in the settlements and in
east Jerusalem, were not met.
In a related development, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
announced on Tuesday he would host Netanyahu in Ottawa during a working
visit to Canada on May 31.
“It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu to Canada,”
Harper said in a statement issued from his office. “Our countries have
a close and enduring friendship which we are working to further
strengthen. There is tremendous respect in Canada for the courage,
resilience and determination of Israel and its people.”
Netanyahu’s office confirmed the visit, saying the prime minister would
travel to Canada, whose government is one of the most supportive of
Israel in the world, in the last week of May.
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this