Israel wants peace, and is willing to make concessions to get it.
That was the resounding message of Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Jonathan Peled’s official speech during his first national day reception in Mexico at the Centro Deportivo Israelita Tuesday.
“No country in the world wants peace more than we do,” he said.
“Peace is our main goal and the chief objective of our state policy. With it, we can better confront the path of challenges which are enveloped in both determination and miracles through a greater existential tranquility.”
Peled’s comments echoed those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one day earlier when he stated that Jerusalem wishes to continue direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
And while there are plenty of deterrents to achieving those peace talks, Netanyahu said emphatically that Israel wants a two-nation solution with “a demilitarized Palestinian State that recognizes the Jewish State.”
And that is exactly the thorn in the negotiating process.
While foreign powers such as France (which has offered to host a multilateral peace conference next month) want to impose their own roadmaps on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Netanyahu has staunchly maintained that all talks must be direct (i.e., without third-party interventions and brokerages) and must include an acknowledgement of the Israeli State by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
And Netanyahu is right.
As Peled pointed out in his Independence Day speech and as Netanyahu and his cabinet have repeatedly noted over and over again, it was through direct negotiations that Israel managed to reach peace accords with Egypt and Jordan.
Foreign powers inevitably come to the negotiating tables with their own agendas, and although it will be hard to accommodate the demands and resentments of nearly seven decades of bilateral hostilities, if there is a willingness on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, a real and lasting peace can be ironed out in one-on-one talks that would include a number of topics, ranging from borders and incitement to refugees and settlements.
Israel has said that there are no issues that are taboo when it comes to the negotiating process, and that is a sign of Jerusalem’s determination to reach out to the Palestinians.
Yes, Netanyahu has placed two preconditions to those talks, which are the formal recognition of Israel and assurances of national security (in other words, a guarantee that the proposed Palestinian State will not become a breeding ground for Islamic terrorist organizations).
These are reasonable requests.
It is impossible to negotiate with any group that refuses to recognize you and which is willing to support organizations that are determined to exterminate you.
If the Palestinian Authority is serious about peace, it should be willing to accept Netanyahu’s terms.
On the other hand, there are several obstacles to the process on Jerusalem, including the recent changing of the guard at Israel’s Defense Ministry with the appointment of a very hawkish Avigdor Lieberman, who has repeatedly rubbed the Palestinians the wrong way with threats to annihilate Gaza and impose the death penalty for terrorists.
And then there is Abbas, who not only refuses to budge on accepting Israel’s preconditions but constantly backtracks whenever a new opportunity for peace talks arises.
Achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord will not be easy, especially in the context of the current sectarian and social turmoil that has devastated the political landscape of the Middle East.
But the potential dividends of such an agreement would benefit both Israel and the Palestinians, and could pave the way for greater peace and stability throughout the region.
And as Peled noted in his national day speech, Israel is a country that is used to working miracles, having created an agricultural Eden out of a desert wasteland and having assimilated a Babel of different ethnic cultures into one of the most technologically advanced nations on Earth.
“It is true that much remains to be done (to finalize a peace accord) with the Palestinians, but we have worked toward a process of agreements and cooperation that began 23 years ago with the Oslo Accords,” he said.
“That process should continue solely through direct negotiations and we should be guided by a blueprint based on the principles of two states for two people.”