British Foreign Secretary William Hague, at a London speech Wednesday during which he articulated a great deal of understanding for Israel’s security concerns, spoke out against an interim solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and for the Quartet to set the guidelines for a final agreement.
Both those positions are at odds with Jerusalem’s view of the diplomatic process.
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Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have said in recent weeks that if the Palestinians do not return to negotiations, Netanyahu might propose a plan that calls for a long-term interim agreement, perhaps a state with provisional borders.
Furthermore, Israel has made clear that it is against the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN – setting the parameters of a peace deal, saying that if the Palestinians see that they can get the outlines of what they want in a deal without negotiating with Israel, then they won’t negotiate.
Nevertheless, Hague – at a conference commemorating 60 years of Israeli-British diplomatic relations at London’s Chatham House – said explicitly that “The UK, France and Germany have set out our views on what those principles [for an agreement] should be. Two states for two peoples based on: 1967 borders with equivalent land swaps, security arrangements that protect Israel whilst respecting Palestinian sovereignty by ending the occupation; a fair, realistic and agreed solution for refugees; and Jerusalem as the capital of both states.”
Hague called on the US and the Quartet “to set out clear principles on this basis as soon as possible, and on both sides to resume negotiations to address final status issues.”
The Quartet is expected to meet in mid- April.
Israel has been working diplomatically behind the scenes to try and ensure that the Quartet does not issue a statement setting down the parameters of a deal. Israeli officials have said in recent days that while certain European governments believe this would bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Israel doesn’t feel that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would return to the table and negotiate with Netanyahu even if such a statement emerged from the Quartet.
Hague also said that the change in the region made it more imperative to move the diplomatic process forward, saying that “one of the most important lessons from the ‘Arab Spring’ is that legitimate aspirations cannot be ignored and must be addressed.”
Implying that movement on the peace process will help bolster moderates who will be vying for power in the post-revolution Arab world, Hague said, “It cannot be in anyone’s interests if the new order of the region is determined at a time of minimum hope in the peace process. This creates a risk that in each country, the politics sets with maximum hostility to Israel, rather than giving the new leaders of these countries strong grounds to support the pursuit of peace.”
Hague stressed the UK’s “steadfast support” for Israel, saying that
Britain will “stand for a secure future for Israel as a homeland for the
Jewish people, alongside of course a viable and sovereign Palestinian
state. Britain’s support for Israel was there at the very start. We are
steadfast in our support for it today. Our belief in Israel’s right to
exist is not an issue of discussion or compromise.”
The foreign secretary said Britain opposed efforts “to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself, and we will continue to stand up
for that,” he said. “I do believe that it is vital that in exercising
the right to self defense, of course, Israel takes every possible step
to avoid loss of innocent life. But it does mean that this government is
firmly opposed to those who seek to delegitimize Israel, and that we
are firmly opposed to boycotts.”
Later in the day President Shimon Peres, who attended the Chatham House
event, met at 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister David
Cameron, who said Britain saw itself as a “true and real” friend of
Peres told the British prime minister that Israel was committed to
breaking the current deadlock in negotiations and advancing dialogue
with the Palestinians.
Jonny Paul contributed to this report.