Dome of the rock and Israeli flag.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Thursday urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, saying only direct and frank dialogue without preconditions can guarantee successful talks.
Speaking at the annual Independence Day reception hosted for diplomats at the President’s Residence, Hanegbi used the example of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who engaged in an exchange of views and were able to overcome differences after decades of hostilities.
Yet after stipulating that there should be no preconditions, Hanegbi said, in almost the next breath, that the Palestinians must renounce their demand for the return of refugees.
Nonetheless, he was convinced that an open, in depth dialogue would generate more positive results than rockets from Gaza, terrorist attacks in Jerusalem or the special labeling of goods produced over the green line.
Some ambassadors of member states of the European Union said privately that Hanegbi had gone too far in linking the EU’s request for special labeling of merchandise with rocket attacks from Gaza and terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. The EU request was on a completely different level, they said.
Although President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama have hosted foreign diplomats at the residence previously, this was the first time they had done so on Independence Day.
Rivlin, taking stock of the number of countries represented at the reception, said they all face the same challenges in the rise of fundamentalist groups that bring death and destruction, spread hatred and spill innocent blood. A nuclear Iran, he said, is as much a threat to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, France and Denmark as it is to Israel. In the face of these and other challenges he continued, Israel cannot, should not, and does not stand alone.
Lauding Israel as a beacon of democracy, Rivlin also spared a thought for freedom seekers in neighboring countries in the region, saying that, in the Middle East, women, men and children are on the front line in a fight for their basic rights, giving their lives for the sake of freedom.
Rivlin voiced his hope and prayer that those fighting against fundamentalism “will also taste liberty and freedom.”