Michael Oren talks Schalit swap, Palestinian statehood

Ambassador to US tells 'Christian Science Monitor' Schalit deal won't lead to more kidnappings; statehood bid counterproductive.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 26, 2011 11:33
3 minute read.
Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

mihael oren flag 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said Tuesday that the Schalit deal was crucial to Israeli citizens' relationship with their government and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's goal of unilateral statehood would be detrimental to the Palestinian cause.

Speaking at a meeting of reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Oren said that securing the release of Gilad Schalit was part of an "unwritten social contract between the state and the army," which effectively says,  "We the people of Israel will go out and fight the battles that you tell us to, with the understanding that should anything, God forbid, happen to us, if we fall captive or worse, the state will do everything in its power to secure our release."

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He continued, "It is on that basis that we go to battle, that we send our kids to defend us."

Oren emphasized his point by referencing the fact that upon his release, Schalit said that he knew when he was captured that the state would do everything it could to free him.

The ambassador insisted that if one were to ask Israeli soldiers or parents of soldiers if the state was weakened or strengthened by the Schalit deal, most would argue the latter, because it reaffirmed the aforementioned social contract.

Oren also attempted to quiet those who fear the Schalit deal sets a bad precedent and will lead to more kidnappings. He explained that Schalit was not the first Israeli soldier to be kidnapped, nor the first to be traded in exchange for prisoners. Nor does he believe the deal will lead to Hamas increasing its efforts to kidnap more soldiers. Rather, he said, they already try to kidnap soldiers on a weekly basis.



Speaking about  Abbas's attempts at unilaterally securing a Palestinian state at the United Nations, Oren said, "Creating a Palestinian state... outside of peace talks will set back and lock the Palestinians in for generations to come."

If the Palestinians were willing to negotiate "seriously and intensely," and after several weeks of intense dialogue with the Israelis, had to sell a peace agreement to their own people, each side would have to convince its citizens to accept serious and difficult concessions, the ambassador said.

Israelis would have to give up land that has been sacred to them for three-thousand years, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state opposite Tel aviv, Oren explained. He added that considering rockets are perpetually launched from Gaza, this is a big security risk.

According to Oren, even if Abbas declares a Palestinian state now without negotiating with Israel, he will presumably one day return to peace talks. At that point, when it comes time for him to convince his people to accept a peace agreement, he will need to explain to them why he agreed to give up the idea of repatriating the descendants of Palestinian refugees and recognizing the legitimacy of the State of Israel, as well as the right of the Jews people to live there.

It would be easier for the PA president, and he would have a better chance of succeeding in winning the support of his people later on, if he could offer them statehood as part of a peace agreement, instead of declaring statehood now.


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