'The window for a negotiated peace ends in September'

International community will be the one that will take a Palestinian state to the UN, predicts Palestinian FM Riad Malki in TA address.

March 23, 2011 07:39
4 minute read.
PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki

riad al malki 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The international community is likely to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in September 2011 if a negotiated peace is not achieved in the next half-year, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said in Tel Aviv on Monday night.

The Palestinians would prefer a state that is the result of direct negotiations with Israel, he said at an event in Tel Aviv University that was sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace.

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But the window for that process to take place ends in September, he warned.

“Until this moment [a negotiated peace deal] is our choice, and it will continue to be our choice until September 2011,” Malki said.

He spoke in the midst of a deadlocked peace process, as no direct negotiations have been held between Israelis and Palestinians for the last half-year.

The Palestinians have insisted that they will not talk with Israel unless it halts settlement activity and recognizes a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders with minor land swaps.

Israel has refused to halt settlement activity and has insisted that talks should be held without preconditions. It has accused the Palestinians of attempting to bypass negotiations in favor of seeking unilateral recognition for statehood.

But Malki told the Tel Aviv audience, “We are not going to declare unilaterally a Palestinian state. If we reach September 2011 [without a negotiated peace deal or serious negotiations toward that deal] then it will be clear to the international community that the Israeli leadership is not interested in achieving peace with the Palestinians through negotiations.”

He added that “then, the international community will be the one that will take this issue to the United Nations.”

European diplomats are already speaking of Palestinians’ readiness for statehood and the need to recognize a Palestinian state, he said.

“What I am trying to say is, it won’t be us, it will be the international community that will say it is overdue that we come to recognize a Palestinian state,” he said.

Once that occurred, the relationship with Israel would change, he said, asserting that the West Bank wouldn’t be a disputed territory, but the occupied territory of another state.

Halting settlement activity is essential, he said, because not doing so eliminates the possibility of a two-state solution.

“The way that Israel behaves in the Israeli occupied territories shows and proves to us that what they are trying to do is to eliminate the two-state solution,” he said. “We are fighting hard to preserve the two-state option.”

Malki added that he agreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s assessment that a binational state would be a disaster.

“What Netanyahu is doing is pushing us all toward the solution of a binational state,” he said. “The moment a two-state option is dead, what is left to us is a binational state.”

If a two-state solution were not possible, the Palestinians would accept a binational option, but only if it was a democratic state, where everyone had one vote, Malki said.

“Demographically in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time, we will be the majority,” he warned.

He rejected any plan for a Palestinian state with provisional borders and called on Netanyahu to be creative and courageous.

Malki also rejected security plans for the day after a two-state solution was implemented, that would involve placing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley.

“We are ready to have a demilitarized state with no army and only a strong police. We are ready to accept the presence of a third international party,” he said.

Such a force could be from NATO, he speculated, or it could be led by the US.

Israel could choose the nations that would participate in this international force, he said. Its soldiers could be Jewish, but they could not be Israeli because that would be an extension of the occupation, he added.

“We cannot accept that there will be one Israeli soldier in the Jordan Valley, even if it is Druse or a Muslim,” Malki said.

He attacked the peace process of the last two decades as “useless” and said that regional changes over the last two months would force all the parties find a new approach to resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

“The current peace process as it has been conducted so far is over,” he said.

Malki called on Israel to take the necessary steps to return to the negotiating table.

“We are willing to enter into negotiations tomorrow if Israel will accept these points. We are willing to engage with Israel 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

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