Beilin: Failure during talks is worse than doing nothing

Ex-Meretz leader urges guaranteeing PM’s safety because "there might be people who are very much against the negotiations."

Yossi Beilin 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yossi Beilin 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“The price of failure is much higher than the price of doing nothing,” former minister Yossi Beilin told reporters at the Jerusalem Press Club on Monday only hours ahead of the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Beilin, who as deputy foreign minister was one of the architects of the Oslo peace process, was not optimistic about the outcome of the renewed talks, and said that prospects for their success were very low.
On the other hand, he conceded that the fact that expectations are not high may prove to be advantageous.
The very fact that the talks were taking place at all was attributable to the perseverance of US Secretary of State John Kerry, just as then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s participation in the Madrid Conference in 1991 could be attributed to the perseverance of James Baker, said Beilin. Both Baker and Kerry repeatedly shuttled between the United States and the Middle East to achieve their goals.
Beilin said that, given the circumstances, he found Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s behavior difficult to understand.
“He has reneged on all that he has said throughout his political career,” said the former minister, who stated that he believes that what the prime minister is saying now is more than lip service.
Beilin noted that Netanyahu is not the first right-wing leader to turn his back on his ideology, citing Menachem Begin, who withdrew from Sinai, and Ariel Sharon, who withdrew from Gaza.
While “really happy” that the peace process is back on track, Beilin said he was worried about the time that had been lost.
He stated that, although the Americans were kept out of the picture in Oslo, their involvement in Madrid was crucial and that a current US presence is very necessary.
The former minister welcomed the appointment of former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk to mediate the talks, and noted Indyk’s wide-ranging knowledge of the situation and his previous involvement with the parties concerned.
“I’m very glad he’s there,” he said.
Reviewing the present political landscape in Israel, Beilin opined that “Netanyahu’s coalition is convenient for the peace process” and forecast that “Netanyahu will be prime minister even if [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali] Bennett leaves.”
At the same time, Beilin warned indirectly that much more stringent precautions must be taken to guarantee the prime minister’s safety, because “there might be people who are very much against the negotiations – and we have to prepare.”
Looking back, Beilin said that Israel has always worried about terrorists, adding that “we never believed there would be a Baruch Goldstein or a Yigal Amir.”
Beilin said that he was not opposed to settlements remaining in the future Palestinian state, and suggested that the settlements remaining in Palestinian territory be one of Israel’s demands in the negotiations.
According to Beilin, Kerry’s role during the talks will be to understand what the parties are ready to do and the price that they are ready to pay, and to push them to do a little bit more. He suggested that if Kerry sees after a month or two that there is no chance of reaching an interim agreement, he should go for a permanent settlement.
The former minister also stated that Europeans should be involved in the process to the extent that they can place restraints on the building of settlements and assist with all generic issues such as environment, water and compensation, and said that they should also help the Palestinians in building their state and absorbing the refugees who are the victims of regional turmoil and upheavals.
He also called for the Arab League to join the process to facilitate the sending of Arab commercial delegations to Israel and the accepting of Israeli commercial delegations in Arab countries throughout the negotiations.
If there is an agreement, said Beilin, the delegations will be upgraded to embassies, and if there is no agreement, they will be recalled to their home countries.
Hamas should not be forgotten in the process, Beilin emphasized.
“This is the time to talk to them directly or indirectly and help them acquire products that they need. We don’t want a human catastrophe in Gaza.”
If the Palestinians in Gaza get what they need, there is less likelihood of them torpedoing the process, he explained.