'Normality with Palestinians is far off'

Ex-MI head: A two-state solution is not enough.

By NOAH RAYMAN
July 23, 2010 02:55
2 minute read.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Gazit, the former head of military intelligence who has become an outspoken representative of the Israeli moderate camp, presented grim prospects for peace at a joint Palestinian- Israeli conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Even if a two-state solution is found and peace is declared, he said, it will take another two generations before a sense of normality can be achieved.

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“We will all know that it’s going to be, on the one hand, a relatively cold peace, and on the other hand, much more importantly, a very precarious peace,” the 86- year old officer said.

Gazit, who led the Military Intelligence Directorate from 1974 to 1978, was a guest speaker at the conference, held at the Ambassador Hotel in east Jerusalem and hosted by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information – an organization that aims to build a discourse between leaders of both communities.

The conference, titled “Israeli and Palestinian Security Concerns in the Peace Process,” was part of a series hosted by the IPCRI to bring together speakers from both sides of the border, guaranteeing travel permits to enable Palestinians to attend.

At Wednesday’s event, Gazit was joined by Rami Dajani, a legal adviser for security on the PLO Negotiations Support Unit.

Dajani replaced Jibril Rajoub, who was originally scheduled to appear.

Dajani called upon the Israelis to depart from the status quo and what he described as an Israeli perception that the relationship with the West Bank was the “normal state of affairs.”

“We need to have a different way of thinking about resolving these conflicts altogether,” Dajani said.

But Gazit dismissed Dajani’s hopes as unrealistic.

“I’m afraid this is not in the cards,” he said.

He pointed to the settlements as the major obstacle in the possible transition of the West Bank to the Palestinian authorities.

He acknowledged that many of the settlers would not willingly leave the West Bank.

But he rejected any possibility of Palestinian sovereignty over the settlers, noting that if any settlers did remain on the Palestinian side, they would retain Israeli citizenship and require security from the government.

“Israel will have to deal with those settlements before we can hand [the West Bank] over to the Palestinians and say, ‘This is your responsibility,’” he said.

Gazit blamed the media for pouncing on and exaggerating obstacles to stronger relations, saying this only further harmed the peace process.

However, Gazit, who emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not the government, also spoke of his time in the army as a period when Israel was quick to react and could more easily overcome the bumps that arose in the peace process.

“The main element that was characterizing our operations in those days... was the need and the understanding that things should be dealt with immediately,” he said. “Before it blows up into the huge fire that cannot be extinguished.”

Now 30 years out of the military, Gazit – who was known to reach out to Palestinian authorities even in his military intelligence post – said he had seen no improvement in his own communications with the Palestinians.

“I had much better discussions then,” he told The Jerusalem Post after the conference.


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