Netanyahu disputes Fabius diagnosis that Israeli-Palestinian issue is region’s central concern

Root cause of Mideast instability is rejection of modernity, moderation, progress, PM says in response to French FM.

Netanyahu looking menacingly at French FM Fabius 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu looking menacingly at French FM Fabius 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the root cause of Mideast instability, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Sunday, a day after Fabius said it was perhaps the central issue in the region.
The root of the area’s instability, Netanyahu said in a public statement made alongside Fabius before the two met in Jerusalem, is the regional rejection of modernity, moderation, progress and political solutions.
“I say that because for too long people believed that the root cause of this instability in the Middle East was the Palestinian-Israeli problem. It is not the root cause; it’s one of its results,” he said.
“If we have peace with the Palestinians, the centrifuges will not stop spinning in Iran, the turmoil will not stop in Syria, the instability in North Africa will not cease, the attacks on the West will not cease,” he added.
Netanyahu seemed to be responding directly to comments Fabius made Saturday in Ramallah, after meting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Even if we speak of other neighboring countries – the dramatic conflict in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt – the fact remains that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is one of the issues, perhaps the central one, for the region,” Fabius said.
After meeting Netanyahu, Fabius said at a solo press conference that while in the past the Israeli-Palestinian conflict burned while the rest of the region was relatively quiet, now the situation was reversed.
But, he said, it would be a “grave mistake” to follow those saying that this was not the time to move on the Israeli-Palestinian track because of everything else happening in the region.
“I think it is necessary to take advantage of a situation where there it is relative quiet,” he said, adding that the quiet demonstrated a “change of mentality” that needed to be harnessed for moving the process forward.
While acknowledging that an Israeli-Palestinian accord would not solve all the problems in the region, Fabius said that if Israel and the Palestinian Authority could be turned into an “island of stability” it would be easier to deal with the other problems.
Fabius, before meeting President Shimon Peres, said that with so many dramatic events enveloping the region – such as in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt – there were those wondering how peace could be made under such circumstances.
“But we must think in the opposite way,” he said.
“Because of those things peace is even more important in the region, and we must make the most of this moment.”
Peres said that for peace to be made skepticism must be overcome.
“The fact is that despite the skepticism negotiations opened and it wasn’t easy for either side,” he said.
In an apparent allusion to the blow Hamas was dealt with the downfall of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, Peres said the “the position of Abu Mazen [Abbas] has improved, he knows it and it helps him. I think the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] decided to move and he moved. Peace is not easy but if we achieve it then we will be able to turn our attention to the tragic and existential issues of the Middle East.”
UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry said Israeli and Palestinian fear of the consequences of yet another failed stab at peace negotiations could actually spur the sides toward success this time.
Serry, in an interview on Israel Radio, said that failure would have consequences for Abbas, whom he described as the leader of the “more moderate wing of the Palestinian movement which is committed to a two state solution.”
“But the very reason that the consequences, in my view, for both sides will be pretty serious if this fails again, gives me also hope that they will be serious in the US-led effort to return meaningful negotiations,” he said.
Serry, who has an extremely low profile in the country for someone who has served in his present post for the last six years, said there was “growing realization on both sides that it is imperative to make progress, meaningful progress, not to make these talks another round about talks, but meaningful talks.”
He said that if both sides were ready to make “tough decisions” then the goal of an agreement could be reached in “six to nine months.”
Hinting that a failure this time could lead to the collapse of the PA, Serry said that Palestinian state building cannot “continue endlessly” without “a credible political horizon.”
He said this was why the negotiations were so important.
“These institutions have been built up,” he said. “If their ultimate meaning, which is to be the foundation stones of a Palestinian state, becomes a total illusion, then we should not take their continued existence for granted.
It should be clear to anyone.”
Serry said he feels “a little more optimistic” than he has over the last six years.