Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin addressed the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday morning, saying that, while direct talks are important, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may not be the correct address for such talks.
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One day after the EU's 27 foreign ministers called for a direct renewal of talks, Rivlin says Israel would negotiate, but cannot give up on the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
"The nations of Europe understand very well the vital importance of the existence of a state for the Jewish People," Rivlin stated. "Jewish people lived in many states in Europe, but this situation could not continue in trying times."
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently agreed to the initiative to
renew talks along the lines proposed by the Quartet, but the problem is
the Palestinians refuse to accept the elementary demand to recognize the
State of Israel as a Jewish State," he explained.
"Even if the present Israeli government may be too uncompromising for
your tastes," Rivlin told the parliamentarians, "you must realize that
it is taking this firm stand as a safety measure against illusions for
which the Israelis have already paid a very heavy price."
The Knesset Speaker also explained to the European Parliament that,
while they are working towards a Palestinian State, Israel is still
under constant threat.
"The efforts of the international community are focused on the
establishment of a Palestinian state and less on ensuring the survival
of the State of Israel," he said. "Many in the international community
regard the survival of the State of Israel as a given. They assume that
Israel's survival as a Jewish State is assured, that it is an
Rivlin added: "I am sorry to say that despite many long years of
struggle, the survival of the State of Israel is not yet assured."
"We will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state bordering
on a 'state of all citizens' – the Palestinians must declare that if
there are two states, one will be Jewish," he explained.
Rivlin also discussed the European Parliament's decision to support the
Palestinian Authority's unilateral statehood bid in the UN.
"The Palestinian request to the UN Security Council is not a
particularly exceptional event; it is merely another stumbling block in
the ongoing conflict," he said. "The Oslo Accords are, I believe, bad
agreements, but they did maintain the basic principle of direct
negotiations between us and the Palestinians. The State of Israel,
under every one of its governments, always insisted on this basic
"[Abbas'] attempt to gather together mediators from around the world, be
it the Americans, the Europeans, the UN or Latin American states, will
not succeed," Rivlin stated. "It is true that there have always been
many mediators involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there
will always be only two central players – only us, Israelis and the
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said that "when it comes to
peace in the Middle East, we do not have a coalition and an opposition.
We all think that first and foremost, the sides must sit around one
"The attempt to avoid negotiations has become an addiction to the
conflict itself. In any peace settlement, we shall have to leave this in
the past. Abbas is not prepared to do so," Rivlin explained.
"Mahmoud Abbas is still mourning the loss of his home in Safed in 1948,
and not the establishment of settlements since 1967. Mahmoud Abbas is
mourning for the past, but he is not looking towards the future. This
is the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The Knesset speaker further criticized Abbas, saying that the PA
president "will not agree to the presence of a single Israeli in the
"This is unacceptable," Rivlin explained, "just as it is not acceptable
for there to be no Palestinians in Israel. The Palestinians who live in
Israel will always be Israeli citizens with equal rights."
Rivlin also emphasized the importance of tolerance between the two sides.
"Peace is not achieved by formal agreements. Peace is not made between
leaders – peace is made between nations," he said. "In our tiny area of
land, where we live side by side, coexistence is not a vision; it is a
fact of life."
"We live side by side, among one another. Anyone who does not witness
that with his own eyes can never understand the conflict, and certainly
cannot make any useful contribution to resolving it," Rivlin explained
to the European Parliament.
"This conflict can end only when both sides realize that they have not
been sentenced to live together, but that it is their fate to live
together as the sons of Abraham in this small land," he concluded.