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Official Israeli Talking Points

August 8, 2013
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The following talking points were issued by the Israeli Embassy in Washington and were distributed by its diplomatic outposts, including by the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia.  

Table of Contents

1.       Given the turmoil in the Middle East, why are talks resuming now?

2.       We know the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are wide, what should we expect?

3.       Are the Israelis and Palestinians entering the talks bona fide?

4.       Do the Israeli people want peace? Does Prime Minister Netanyahu want peace? Is the mood right in the Israeli government for a peace agreement? Why do some Israeli politicians, including members of the coalition, speak out against peace?

5.       Do Palestinian people want peace? Does Abbas and the Palestinian leadership want peace? Is the mood right in the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement?

6.       How do you negotiate a state into existence that is divided between two warring factions – Fatah and Hamas, which is heavily influenced by Iran?

7.       What will be the American role in the talks?

8.       What is the role of Europe in negotiations?

9.       What is the role of the Arab League and the Arab world in negotiations?

10.   Why does Israel continue building settlements against international pressure and while the Palestinians insist on their cessation? Will Israel disengage from settlements?

11.   Why is Israel refusing the Palestinian claim of return for refugees?

12.   What will the borders of a future Israeli state look like? Will it be based on 1967 lines with land swaps?

13.   What is the future of Jerusalem—will it be split, will it serve as the capitals of both nations? Should there be an international presence in Jerusalem?

14.   Why is the one-state solution not viable?

15.   Why is there a timeframe for negotiations? What if the talks fail?

16.   What can the public do to help peace negotiations?

 

Given the turmoil in the Middle East, why are talks resuming now?

Peace is ingrained among Israel’s founding principles and bringing an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians has been a paramount goal of Israel’s since its inception. Thus, we are committed to pursuing peace until it is achieved. Peace is the only way we can secure Israel as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. Ending the conflict is not only for our generation, but for improving the lives of our children and all future generations.

Israelis and Palestinians are certainly influenced by the instability in the Middle East. Arab-Palestinians are part of the Arab world and its clear the events across the region are influencing them. While this turmoil must be taken into account, and will influence the process, it cannot serve as an excuse to not have peace talks. Israel is not determining the future of the countries surrounding us. What we can determine, and where we can act, is on the peace process. We need to seize the opportunities when they arise.

 

We know the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are wide, what should we expect?

Israel and Israelis are yearning and wishing for peace. We believe peace will improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, and will further strengthen the security of the state of Israel. We believe sharing the land will allow us to preserve Israel as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. Therefore, we determined to work hard and use any opportunity that we have to engage with our Palestinian neighbors to reach an historic peace agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples – Israel the nation-state and homeland for the Jewish people and an Arab Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people.

Starting negotiations is not a goal in itself. We expect serious and intensive direct negotiations between trusted parties, without media exposure or spin. We expect both sides will not quit the table because of disagreements, rather, we expect they will seek creative solutions in order to bring an end to the conflict with an end to all claims. We expect each side will build public opinion in his own constituency to support the talks--a peace based on two states for two peoples--and the idea that there will be achievements and there will be compromises.

At the end of negotiations, we expect a peace that means no more Palestinian suicide bombers who get public squares named after them and no more missiles fired at our school buses.  We expect a peace that allows Israel to be able to invest in ourselves, building a better society for our children, and creating a prosperous future.

Are the Israelis and Palestinians entering the talks bona fide?

On the day before negotiations began, it's remarkable to compare the actions of each people's leader. For Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners who have murdered men, women and children. The prisoners were not political criminals, they were persons who committed horrendous acts of violence. This was a very controversial move among the Israeli people, but Prime Minister Netanyahu was preparing his people for the risks they would need to take for peace. On the other side, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stood up at a press conference in Cairo and said that he will not compromise an inch of land. We wish he would begin preparing the Arab world for the need to compromise. It's crucial for these negotiations to succeed.

Do the Israeli people want peace? Does Prime Minister Netanyahu want peace? Is the mood right in the Israeli government for a peace agreement? Why do some Israeli politicians, including members of the coalition, speak out against peace?

Yes, polls show Israelis want peace. For Israel and Israelis, peace means no more Palestinian suicide bombers who get public squares named after them and no more missiles fired at our school buses.  Peace also means being able to invest in ourselves, building a better society for our children, and creating a prosperous future.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly showed his commitment to peace in both his words and his actions. At Bar-Ilan in 2009, the Prime Minister envisioned a peace of two free peoples living side by side. In 2010, the Prime Minister froze settlements for 10 months—a move that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "unprecedented". At the 2011 UN General Assembly, he offered to start negotiations immediately with President Abbas in New York. In a joint press conference with President Obama this year in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to peace based on two states for two peoples. For these talks, the Prime Minister agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, criminals, who have committed horrendous crimes, murder among them, against innocent Israelis and tourists. If someone doubts his commitment, the only way to test him is at the negotiating table.

People will always look for excuses why the time is not right. We have long called for negotiations for an end to the conflict, and the opportunity is here today as the Palestinians have finally agreed to return to the table. The time for peace is now and we will not miss this opportunity. In addition to the support of his coalition and forces in the opposition, Prime Minister Netanyahu is ready to lead an internal Israeli discourse to highlight the importance of reaching peace with our neighbors anchored in the security of the land and people of Israel

Israel is a proud and vibrant democracy, and, just as in America, there are diverging opinions that are permitted and even encouraged in a democracy. Most Israelis and Israeli politicians support peace. The diverging opinions often heard or read are not against peace, but about specific policies related to peace.

Do Palestinian people want peace? Does Abbas and the Palestinian leadership want peace? Is the mood right in the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement?

Israelis may understandably be wary or concerned about the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to peace. For years, Palestinian leadership has glorified terrorism, naming streets and squares after suicide bombers and convicted murders. For years, Palestinian leadership has ignored Israeli calls to return to the negotiating table. However, we believe there are enough Palestinians who believe peace is possible.

The heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a struggle between two national movements that have claim to the same land. The only possible resolution should adhere to the principle that we need to share and we need to recognize one another. By sitting at the negotiating table to discuss all standing issues and with a willingness to be creative and to compromise, we can put an end to the conflict with an end to all claims.

What is needed now is leadership from the Palestinians with a clear commitment to talk until we have ‘white smoke’. We expect the Palestinians to stay at the table even when negotiations they become tough and to begin leading an internal discourse preparing the Palestinian people for the gains and compromises that will come from peace.

Timing is not strictly about current mood, It’s about the responsibility of leadership to do what is best for their people. What’s needed now is Palestinian leadership determined to convey to its people the importance of negotiations and peace; to convey there will be achievements and there will be compromises. The commitment by Israeli and Palestinian should be for our children and the future generations who will have a better life than ours.

How do you negotiate a state into existence that is divided between two warring factions – Fatah and Hamas, which is heavily influenced by Iran?

It is our responsibility to promote an agreement with those who are ready to be part of an historic peace. Hamas, which controls about 40 percent of the Palestinian population, cannot be a partner to the peace process until it adheres to the Quartet principles: recognizing Israel, upholding all previous agreements and renouncing violence.

However, we cannot allow radical forces, like Hamas, to take the vision of peace hostage, and therefore Hamas-controlled Gaza will force us to pay attention to the security parameters that will secure Israelis, the land of Israel and the agreement.

What will be the American role in the talks?

Israel greatly appreciate Secretary Kerry’s leadership to resume the direct talks for peace for a two-state solution. In negotiations, the United States will serve to maximize the ability of the sides to dialogue and to compromise, with the goal of achieving two states, living side by side in peace and security. Only the United States has the needed trust and power from the parties to facilitate an historic peace agreement.

As agreed on by the parties, the United States will work continuously with both parties as a facilitator throughout the nine month time frame on all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation. The parties agreed that negotiations will remain confidential and the U.S. will be the sole party to speak, if necessary, on the status of negotiations.

What is the role of Europe in negotiations?

We hope countries in Europe, the European Union and the rest of the world, will support the process through backing the Kerry initiative and creating a positive atmosphere for the talks. We need Europe to be very careful and cautious in its actions that may be unconstructive and increase distrust between the parties.

What is the role of the Arab League and the Arab world in negotiations?

We hope the Arab League and Arab countries will lend their support for negotiations and create a positive atmosphere that will encourage the Palestinians to solve the conflict through direct negotiations. We hope the Arab League supports the right of the Palestinians to negotiate what is right for them. We hope they will not create additional obstacles to peace by pressuring the Palestinians on final status issues or creating extra conditions that will make it more difficult for the Palestinians to negotiate. We also hope the Arab League will push confidence building measures from their end that will improve relations with Israel and Israelis. The Arab world should welcome any agreement that is reached by the parties.

Why does Israel continue building settlements against international pressure and while the Palestinians insist on their cessation? Will Israel disengage from settlements?

The future of the settlements will be an issue that will be negotiated, along with all other core issues. We can't strip settlements of their meaning. Settlements are communities in our historic, biblical homeland.

In the past, Israel has proven its capability to reach agreements on borders to remove Israeli towns and communities in Sinai, Gaza and northern Samaria. Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated publicly, to the U.S. Congress, that in any realistic peace arrangement, some settlements will be beyond Israel's borders. The issue of settlements will be discussed around the negotiating table and changes will be part of an agreement that will end the conflict and end the claims.

If we thought that by just freezing settlements we'd have peace or be genuinely closer to peace, that would be one thing. Unfortunately we know that not to be the case. When Prime Minister Netanyahu froze settlements for ten months—a move that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "unprecedented"—President Abbas refused to even negotiate until the last two weeks of the freeze, and only then he demanded an additional freeze. Settlements are certainly an issue, but they are one of many issues that must be determined face to face at the negotiating table.

Why is Israel refusing the Palestinian claim of return for refugees?

There is a critical asymmetry between Israelis and Palestinians regarding our vision for an end to the conflict. Although an historic claim to all of the land exists for Israel as well, eretzh Israel ha’shlema, polls indicate that the majority of Israelis have long supported a future of two sovereign states for two peoples. The majority of Palestinians, on the other hand, remain committed to the claim of return – or the end of the sovereign state of Israel. Palestinian political and religious leadership speak on this platform and children are educated on this platform.

The issue of refugees will be discussed around the negotiating table, along with all other core issues. At its heart, the Palestinian claim of return is a disguise for not accepting Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The claim of return would force Israel to absorb all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, nearly 4.7 million, who want to live in it, thus creating a bi-national state

The issue of refugees is a social, economic and humanitarian problem that needs to be addressed in negotiations, but not within the borders of Israel--not when it threatens Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Israel can contribute to the solution, but it won’t include accepting the Palestinians narrative. We will not have peace until we share a vision of two-states for two peoples, including a final end to all claims.

What will the borders of a future Israeli state look like? Will it be based on 1967 lines with land swaps?

The issue of borders will be determined in direct negotiations, along with all other core issues. Israel accepts the principles of President Obama in which the borders of Israel and a future Arab-Palestinian state will be based on security needs and the new demographic realities on the ground. Provisions must be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.

What is the future of Jerusalem—will it be split, will it serve as the capitals of both nations? Should there be an international presence in Jerusalem?

The issue of Jerusalem will be discussed at the negotiating table, along with all other core issues. Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish, religious and national identities of Israel. It was the historic capital of the Jewish people and Israel’s position is that Jerusalem will not be divided and Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel. Only a democratic Israel has been committed to the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city--Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Having said that, we are aware of the religious ties and we understand the Palestinians have their own positions. Everything can and should be brought to the negotiating table, and, as Prime Minister Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress, we believe with creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.

Why is the one-state solution not viable?

Just this week in Cairo, President Abbas asserted that there will not be “a single Israeli” in a future Arab-Palestinian state. Unlike Abbas, Israel accepts the rights of minorities to live in Israel as fully equal citizens, and we will protect those rights. However, we want to prevent the creation of a bi-national state. Israelis want to be the nation state of the Jewish people with a democratic government, and the only way to ensure that is through the creation of two states for two peoples – Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and an Arab Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

Why is there a timeframe for negotiations? What if the talks fail?

A time frame of nine months has been proposed by the parties. The time frame highlights how important and urgent it is for the parties to negotiate.

The time is here for peace, and Israel is determined and committed to pursue peace through negotiations. Israel is focused on how we can make negotiations work. We cannot look at the possibility of unsuccessful talks. Israeli and Palestinian leadership have the responsibility to make these negotiations work for their people.

There is also a responsibility of world leaders and within international public discourse to create a positive atmosphere for talks that will guide their success. Leaders and the community should encourage the sides to work towards a realistic and workable political agreement, and give up fantasy solutions.

We have an expectation from the community to make clear to President Abbas that quitting negotiations is not an option and that he must not shy away from compromise. Abbas must further understand there will be achievements and there will be compromises, and he must convey this to his people

We understand the difficulties, and we understand we may need additional time to negotiate. We look to the talks to create a positive momentum to a necessary process to reach a peace based on two states for two peoples

What can the public do to help peace negotiations?

The public has an important role to join in the discourse surrounding the peace talks. We hope world leaders, governments and publics will create a positive atmosphere for talks that will guide their success. Leaders and the community should encourage the sides to work towards a realistic and workable political agreement, and give up fantasy solutions. We have an expectation from the community to make clear to President Abbas that quitting negotiations is not an option and that he must not shy away from compromise. Abbas must further understand there will be achievements and there will be compromises, and he must convey this to his people

Governments around the world, especially in Europe and within the Arab world, should continue to lend their support for negotiations. They should be careful and cautious in their actions that may be unconstructive and increase distrust between the parties. Finally, they should welcome any agreement that is reached by the parties.

 

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