Recently a secret State Department source (now believed to be Clinton confidante and Israel critic, Martin Indyk) told Ynet News the collapse of the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks was a result of Israel adding homes to existing “settlements,” beyond the “Green Line.” On Tuesday, The Times of Israel revealed a contrary view from sources within the Israeli government blaming the failure on the deal on the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State:
“Netanyahu’s profound and unshakable belief that without Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people a peace agreement is fundamentally flawed.”
According to the piece, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took the talks very seriously, “genuinely considering all the issues raised by the negotiators, weighing earnestly the pros and cons of every idea brought to his desk.” Netanyahu kept trying to find a way to resolve issues so Israel could sign a final-status deal with the Palestinians.
Rather than hoping to somehow survive the talks politically and focusing on how to win the blame game afterwards, these sources say, the prime minister spent several hours every day poring over the matters raised in the negotiating room, asking himself which positions Israel could allow itself to adopt in order to advance toward an agreement.
Netanyahu keen on a peace deal? That same Netanyahu who for years campaigned against a Palestinian state, never publicly committed to negotiating on the basis of the 1967 lines, and never ceased to expand Jewish settlements? Would this man eagerly search for ways to establish the state of Palestine?
The answer to those questions may be found in a speech Netanyahu gave one year ago: “The purpose of the future agreement with the Palestinians is to prevent the eventuality of a binational state and to guarantee stability and security,” he told top officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on May 1, 2013, three months before the ill-fated talks commenced.
In late January, he reiterated this position: “We do not want to annex the Palestinians as citizens of the State of Israel and we do not want to control them,” he said at a conference in Tel Aviv.
On one point Netanyahu stood firm, Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish State:
Just as much (if not more) than the announcements of additional Israeli housing units beyond the Green Line — something the Palestinians knew would not cease during the negotiations — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to even discuss such recognition is to blame for the lack of progress, the sources said.
Even the unnamed American officials who spoke to Barnea [the Ynet news interview] acknowledged Abbas’s obdurate position on this issue.
“We couldn’t understand why it bothered him so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. We wanted to believe that for the Palestinians this was a tactical move — they wanted to get something (in return) and that’s why they were saying ‘no.’ The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened.”
Apparently the Israeli negotiators were willing to work with Abbas and his team on the wording of a “Jewish-State” declaration that would also include the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in precisely equivalent terms, and would have also included phrases to guarantee the rights of Israel’s Arab minority. But the Palestinian negotiators refused to even consider the issue.