This week's 20 Questions hosts Alon Liel, former ambassador to South Africa and charge d'affaires in Turkey. Ambassador Liel was also a key player in negotiating a peace deal with Syria between 2004 - 2008.

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In light of the Syrian uprisings, we asked if Liel still believes that negotiating a peace deal with Syria was the wisest decision. Liel responded by saying that the Palestinian issue and the Syrian issue are closely tied; By supporting, financing and training Hamas, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was partly responsible for the split among Palestinians. Therefore, a peace deal with Syria could have led to exiling Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Iran and subsequently could have made PA President Mahmoud Abbas the sole address for the Palestinian people.



According to Liel, the policy of FM Avigdor Lieberman and PM Binyamin Netanyahu is an “impossible” one that it is causing the gaps between Israelis and the Palestinians to become “unbridgeable.” He further claims that the government’s current attitude is destroying the chances of returning to the negotiating table, and fears that as a result we may be headed towards a one-state solution – an outcome that in Liel’s eyes will be “terrible.”

Contrary to what the Israeli government believes, Liel avers that UN recognition of a Palestinian state could actually be in Israel’s interests by serving as a wake-up call. Since Israel and the Palestinians have demonstrated that they have “no ability whatsoever to reach an agreement,” it has to come from the outside. The international community must call upon Hamas to recognize Israel, and at the same time Israel must be called upon to be “more reasonable with its basic positions.”

In his recent speech to congress, the PM modified Israel’s current position on three key issues which, according to Liel, only exacerbates the conflict: 1) Netanyahu’s call for a united Jerusalem contradicts Israel’s position since Camp David of agreeing to divide the capital. 2) The call for military presence along the Jordan River was never mentioned before – not even by the PM himself in his Bar Ilan speech. 3) In the existing demand for Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel, the PM annexed recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state.” According to Liel, these three new positions are creating hurdles that the Palestinians cannot realistically overcome.

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