Yossi Beilin 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“The price of failure is much higher than the price of doing nothing,” former
minister Yossi Beilin told reporters at the Jerusalem Press Club on Monday only
hours ahead of the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the
Beilin, who as deputy foreign minister was one of the
architects of the Oslo peace process, was not optimistic about the outcome of
the renewed talks, and said that prospects for their success were very
On the other hand, he conceded that the fact that expectations are
not high may prove to be advantageous.
The very fact that the talks were
taking place at all was attributable to the perseverance of US Secretary of
State John Kerry, just as then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s participation in
the Madrid Conference in 1991 could be attributed to the perseverance of James
Baker, said Beilin. Both Baker and Kerry repeatedly shuttled between the United
States and the Middle East to achieve their goals.
Beilin said that,
given the circumstances, he found Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s behavior
difficult to understand.
“He has reneged on all that he has said
throughout his political career,” said the former minister, who stated that he
believes that what the prime minister is saying now is more than lip
Beilin noted that Netanyahu is not the first right-wing leader
to turn his back on his ideology, citing Menachem Begin, who withdrew from
Sinai, and Ariel Sharon, who withdrew from Gaza.
While “really happy”
that the peace process is back on track, Beilin said he was worried about the
time that had been lost.
He stated that, although the Americans were kept
out of the picture in Oslo, their involvement in Madrid was crucial and that a
current US presence is very necessary.
The former minister welcomed the
appointment of former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk to mediate the talks,
and noted Indyk’s wide-ranging knowledge of the situation and his previous
involvement with the parties concerned.
“I’m very glad he’s there,” he
Reviewing the present political landscape in Israel, Beilin opined
that “Netanyahu’s coalition is convenient for the peace process” and forecast
that “Netanyahu will be prime minister even if [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali]
At the same time, Beilin warned indirectly that much
more stringent precautions must be taken to guarantee the prime minister’s
safety, because “there might be people who are very much against the
negotiations – and we have to prepare.”
Looking back, Beilin said that
Israel has always worried about terrorists, adding that “we never believed there
would be a Baruch Goldstein or a Yigal Amir.”
Beilin said that he was not
opposed to settlements remaining in the future Palestinian state, and suggested
that the settlements remaining in Palestinian territory be one of Israel’s
demands in the negotiations.
According to Beilin, Kerry’s role during the
talks will be to understand what the parties are ready to do and the price that
they are ready to pay, and to push them to do a little bit more. He suggested
that if Kerry sees after a month or two that there is no chance of reaching an
interim agreement, he should go for a permanent settlement.
minister also stated that Europeans should be involved in the process to the
extent that they can place restraints on the building of settlements and assist
with all generic issues such as environment, water and compensation, and said
that they should also help the Palestinians in building their state and
absorbing the refugees who are the victims of regional turmoil and
He also called for the Arab League to join the process to
facilitate the sending of Arab commercial delegations to Israel and the
accepting of Israeli commercial delegations in Arab countries throughout the
If there is an agreement, said Beilin, the delegations will
be upgraded to embassies, and if there is no agreement, they will be recalled to
their home countries.
Hamas should not be forgotten in the process,
“This is the time to talk to them directly or
indirectly and help them acquire products that they need. We don’t want a human
catastrophe in Gaza.”
If the Palestinians in Gaza get what they need,
there is less likelihood of them torpedoing the process, he explained.