Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could negotiate a peace treaty with Israel if he wanted to, according to Dore Gold, who was appointed last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
“I think if he wanted to negotiate with Israel he could sit down and do it,” Gold told The Jewish Week in one of his first interviews since his appointment. “But what we saw in the last round of negotiations under the auspices of Secretary of State John Kerry is that while Israel gave conditional approval of Secretary Kerry’s proposals, Abbas said to the U.S. president, ‘I will get back to you.’”
Gold’s assessment is opposite that of former U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, who said at a panel discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations last week that Abbas, who was elected in 2005 to a four-year term, no longer believes he has the legitimacy to make the concessions necessary for a peace treaty.
“So he is paralyzed by that,” Indyk was quoted as saying, adding that Abbas has instead gone to the international community in his effort to secure recognition of Palestine as a state.
Gold has long been considered one of Netanyahu’s closest foreign policy advisers and served as Israel’s United Nations ambassador during Netanyahu’s first term from 1997 until 1999. Born and raised in Hartford, Conn., he is currently director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Gold also spoke to The Jewish Week about the military build-up by Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. A report in a Lebanese newspaper last week said Hezbollah has a large number of troops stationed near the border, as well as numerous tunnels, bunkers, surveillance equipment and tens of thousands of rockets. The paper claimed that the troops are at their highest levels of preparation ever and are ready for war.
“At the end of second Lebanese war [in 2006], United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 established that in the area between the Litani River and the Lebanese-Israeli border there would be no military personnel or weapons except for the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon],” Gold said by phone from Israel. “It created UNIFIL in order to assure that the terms of Resolution 1701 would be adhered to.
“But it doesn’t seem UNIFIL is doing anything about the large Hezbollah presence that is growing in the southern area in violation of the U.N. resolution. And on the basis of the precedent of what went on in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge [last summer], one can see Hezbollah massively applying the idea of human shields for its rockets.
[Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah] has for several years now been storing Hezbollah arms in private homes. It is just that the extent of it seems to have grown recently.”