"Nobody wants peace more than the people of Israel, the Israeli government and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu," Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu's media adviser, said on Israel Radio Monday morning.
Responding to Thomas Friedman's Saturday column in the New York Times, in which the veteran journalist called on the US to abandon efforts for an Israel-Palestinian peace deal, which seems to interest the American administration more than the Israelis or Palestinians, Hefetz, currently in Washington, cited evidence to prove Friedman wrong, as far as his analysis of the Israeli side went.
"We saw evidence of [Israel's desire for peace] in Netanyahu's Bar Ilan address, in the various gestures [to make life easier for Palestinians] in the West Bank" and elsewhere, Hefetz said, laying the blame for the impasse in efforts to renew peace talks on the unwilling partners. "The Palestinian side took two steps backward, and is setting preconditions [for commencing peace talks] that have been unheard of in 16 years," said the Israeli spokesman.
"Netanyahu is calling on the Palestinians to talk peace night and day," Hefetz continued. "The prime minister has said on many occasions that he is willing to talk peace with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] anywhere in the world."
In his Saturday piece, Friedman said that the only thing driving the peace process today was "inertia and diplomatic habit," and that the process had "left the realm of diplomacy."
"This peace process movie is not going to end differently just because we keep playing the same reel. It is time for a radically new approach. And I mean radical. I mean something no US administration has ever dared to do: Take down our "Peace-Processing-Is-Us" sign and just go home" he wrote.
He said it appeared the US wanted peace more than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.
"Right now we want it more than the parties. They all have other priorities today. And by constantly injecting ourselves we've become their Novocain," Friedman wrote. "We relieve all the political pain from the Arab and Israeli decision-makers by creating the impression in the minds of their publics that something serious is happening."
According to Friedman, this impression enabled the respective leaders to continue with their real priorities - "which are all about holding power or pursuing ideological obsessions" - while pretending to advance peace, without paying any political price.
"Let's just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: "My fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It's just you and me and the problem we own," he wrote.
Friedman said the only time America successfully advanced peace was when the sides felt enough "pain" that they invited diplomacy, and under "savvy" leaders like Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, George Shultz, James Baker and Bill Clinton.
"Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other," he said. "It is obvious that this Israeli government believes it can have peace with the Palestinians and keep the West Bank, this Palestinian Authority still can't decide whether to reconcile with the Jewish state or criminalize it and this Hamas leadership would rather let Palestinians live forever in the hellish squalor that is Gaza than give up its crazy fantasy of an Islamic Republic in Palestine."
He claimed that the "dysfunctional" peace process was damaging the Obama administration's credibility.
"If the status quo is this tolerable for the parties, then I say, let them enjoy it. I just don't want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they'll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed US plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table. Let's fight about something big," Friedman concluded.