Poland-bound PM backtracks on peace statement

Netanyahu disavows statement that says unilateral steps by both Israelis and Palestinians are obstacles to peace process.

June 12, 2013 10:34
4 minute read.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Netanyahu.

donald tusk and netanyahu_311. (photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu distanced himself from an official communique released by his bureau and which was to serve as a joint statement with the Polish government affirming Palestinians’ right to statehood, both Army Radio and Channel 10 reported Wednesday morning.

Netanyahu, who is traveling to Warsaw to meet with Polish officials, reportedly took issue with the language of the communique, specifically the part which said that unilateral steps by both sides were obstacles to a peace agreement. The implication in that statement is that Netanyahu was taking a stand against construction in West Bank settlements, a position which would complicate his political standing at home.

“Netanyahu did not go over the text of the statement,” an aide to the prime minister told Army Radio. “It was written by junior-level officials in the National Security Council.”

“Unilateral steps by either party are counterproductive to achieving a sustainable lasting peace,” the joint statement declares. “We welcome the US government’s efforts in this regard, particularly those of US Secretary of State [John Kerry].”

Netanyahu was expected to join his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, in signing the joint statement, which calls on the Palestinians to negotiate with Jerusalem without preconditions.

The premier's about-face prompted criticism from the opposition. "Netanyahu's disavowal of the content of the joint statement with the Polish prime minister only serves to expose the true face of the prime minister who continues to mislead the public and prove once again that he has no intention of making peace," Meretz chief Zehava Gal-On said.

Netanyahu headed to Poland on Wednesday with a delegation of five ministers to hold a joint governmental meeting. Though he was expected to sign the joint declaration with Tusk, aides to the premier told Channel 10 that no plans were ever made for a joint signature. On Thursday, he will inaugurate a new permanent exhibition on the Holocaust, in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

“Both governments agree on the urgent need for progress towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has come through direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions,” reads the statement.

Netanyahu’s office released a preliminary copy of the main points in advance of the trip, but a source told Channel 10 that the bureau erred in releasing the contents of the statement to the press.

The controversy over the statement comes as the Palestinians continue to insist that Israel must halt West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem before talks can begin.

Israel has refused to heed that request. But in support of a renewed US push to rekindle talks, it has agreed to a de facto freeze, in which no new tenders have been issued for building over the pre-1967 lines.

Nonetheless, the Palestinians have not backed down from their demand and continue to threaten to seek unilateral statehood along the pre-1967 lines via the United Nations.
In leaning toward Israel’s position, Poland is in the minority among the 193 UN states.

In November, Poland was one of 41 UN member states that abstained from the General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinian status to that of UN non-member state.

As part of the original joint statement on Middle East issues, Poland and Israel agreed that the latter’s legitimacy, the security of its citizens, and the Palestinian right to a state should never be in doubt.

According to the statement, both governments support the vision of a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, allowing for the self-determination of the Jewish and Palestinian nations, living side by side in peace and security. The statement also deals with other regional issues, such as Syria and Iran.

With respect to Syria, the document says that both governments are concerned by the growing number of fatalities and the ties that many extremist terrorist organizations have to the conflict.

The deteriorating security situation in Syria is affecting the entire region, the declaration says, adding that Poland and Israel are concerned by the broad support the Syrian government has received from extremist players and organizations, including Hezbollah.

Both governments were expected to say they welcome the international community’s efforts to end the Syrian civil war and restore peace and stability.

With respect to Iran, the statement continues, both governments were to have agreed that Tehran’s nuclear program presents the greatest potential threat to the Middle East and the world. The document also posits that diplomatic efforts to thwart the country’s nuclear drive must be coupled with a credible military threat, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Jerusalem and Warsaw also agree in the statement to fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and add that Holocaust education is an important part of this battle.

Additionally the joint statement will emphasize the friendly relations and historic partnership between the two countries.

The two governments will discuss improved cooperation in the fields of foreign relations, culture, heritage, education and youth exchange.

This trip is Netanyahu’s second to Poland since he became prime minister in 2009. It is also the second such joint governmental meeting. Tusk and a delegation of ministers visited Israel two years ago.

Joining Netanyahu on his trip will be Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Education Minister Shai Piron, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach.

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