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‘No Peace Through Coercion’

‘No Peace Through Coercion’

The Israeli government emphatically rejected this week a proposal by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to impose a settlement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if none is reached by a set deadline, and Israeli analysts dismissed it as infeasible.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement that “when push comes to shove, everyone knows that the existing agreements in this region were never achieved by coercion but only by direct communication between the two parties. … It is up to us to build peace, it cannot be achieved by coercion.”

Uri Savir, president of the Peres Center for Peace, said flatly: “I don’t believe in such deadlines. The Israelis and Palestinians have to go along with the [2003] Road Map for peace and set their own deadlines. Nothing can be imposed, and the Obama administration would not back it.”

In comments last Saturday in London, Solana was quoted as saying that a mediator recognized by the international community must set a timetable and “if the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should … be put on the table.

“After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements. It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation.”

Yarom Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, pointed out that in the last year both Palestinians and some groups on the Israeli left raised the same possibility.

“It expresses their pessimism about solving the conflict through negotiations under the host of the Americans or the Quartet,” he said, referring to the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

“However, from my reading of the process, I would say that chances for an imposed solution are minimal or even nonexistent. I could not see any option for any government in Israel to accept an imposed solution.”

Meital added that the “vast majority of EU members have declared their support for [President Barack] Obama’s statements concerning a renewal of the peace process. I think this indicates that European governments would not support any move that would not be endorsed by the Obama administration.”
Lieberman noted that Obama spoke in detail recently about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said there is no substitute for direct talks.

Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, noted that Solana, who is retiring at the end of the year, said on Monday that his proposal was his alone and that he was not speaking for the Europeans. Shoval termed Solana’s suggestion “ridiculous.”

“The peace process is based on the principle of negotiation between the parties with or without a go-between as encapsulated in UN resolutions 242 and 338 of the Security Council,” he said. “You can’t impose a settlement unless a majority of both sides agree to whatever formula is adopted.”

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted by AFP as saying that UN recognition would be “one option if Israel derails” the Obama administration’s efforts to resolve the conflict. And he called on Europe to “continue in its efforts to apply pressure to Israel to freeze the settlements and stop wasting time.”

Netanyahu on Sunday called on Abbas to meet him to start unconditional talks. Although both men are said to have spoken on the phone since Netanyahu assumed office March 31, they have not met.
But Abbas quickly rejected the request, saying that there could be no talks until all settlement construction was ended. Netanyahu has said that although he would not permit any new settlements, construction could continue in the existing settlement blocs and Jerusalem that Israel intends to keep in any future peace arrangement.

Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, said Abbas’ refusal to meet supports the views of “many of us in and outside the government who believe the Palestinian actions are designed to prevent the goal of a two-state solution and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Such a move would end the ‘right of return’ claims and recognize Jewish legitimacy in Jerusalem. So they talk the talk of a two-state solution, but don’t walk the walk.”

And despite Palestinian claims, Steinberg said Abbas does not want an imposed settlement because “he will have lost the struggle to prevent the legitimacy of a Jewish state. … Solana and the Europeans don’t understand any of this. The Europeans want a magic solution and want everything to go away because they don’t really have a policy.”

Shoval said the Palestinian’s all or nothing approach is also part of the Saudi peace proposal adopted by the Arab League.

“It does not include negotiations,” he said. “The Arab side does not want to negotiate with Israel, It wants to dictate the [solution] with a take-it or leave-it ultimatum. This will lead nowhere and only harden the intransigent position of the Arabs, who are sitting back and waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel or for Netanyahu to make significant concessions without the Palestinians having to do anything in return.”

Saeb Ereket, the Palestinian’s top negotiator, reportedly told the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour June 25 that there was no need to rush to accept current Israeli proposals because they have steadily improved over the years without any Palestinian concessions in return. He said the Palestinians would insist on both the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel and monetary compensation for them that he estimated would total $140 billion.

In addition, despite recent Palestinian comments to the contrary, Erekat said no Israeli settlers would be permitted to remain in a Palestinian state.

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