Friday, April 17, 2009

Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state

From THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 16, 2009, by HERB KEINON and TOVAH LAZAROFF [my emphasis added - SL]:

Palestinian recognition that Israel is a Jewish state is a fundamental element for any talks between the two parties, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told visiting US envoy George Mitchell on Thursday evening.

The two-hour meeting in Jerusalem was Netanyahu's first long face-to-face conversation as prime minister with a top-level Obama administration official.... a very positive one in which both Israel and the US promised to cooperate fully on regional matters.

...Netanyahu assured Mitchell that Israel wanted to move forward to create a sustainable peace with the Palestinians, but that this peace had to take into account Israel's vital security interests.
Netanyahu stressed that it was important to learn from past mistakes and that no one wanted to see a situation where Israel ceded more territory only to have it taken over by extremist elements, the source said. "No one wants to see a Hamastan in the West Bank..." ....

Looking beyond the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia should be part of the peace process. He said he thought it was possible because today, these regional actors understood the dangers posed by Iran and its extremist proxies... The two men also discussed Iran and Syria, but the source did not elaborate on those conversations.

Mitchell's first meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which took place earlier in the day ...the gist of what Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Mitchell was that the diplomatic efforts that had been tried since 1993 had failed, and it was now time to try something new.

...The sources pointed out the implied criticism of US Middle East policy in Lieberman's saying that the diplomatic efforts had failed, because the US had been very much involved in those efforts.

Mitchell, according to the sources, spoke in generalities about a two-state solution, but did not go into details.

Lieberman's office issued a statement after the meeting saying that he had reviewed the diplomatic process since the 1993 Oslo Accords, stressing that the "traditional approach" had so far brought neither results nor solutions. Lieberman said that six former prime ministers had been prepared to make far-reaching concessions, but that the policies of the Olmert-Livni government in this regard had resulted in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead.

Furthermore, he said, Qatar and Mauritania had cut off ties with Israel, IDF soldier Gilad Schalit continued to sit in captivity, and the diplomatic process had reached a dead end.

The foreign minister said the Israeli government would have to formulate new ideas and a new approach. "We anticipate close cooperation and coordination with the US administration," he said. Lieberman stressed that Israel expected absolute support from the international community on the issue of security, as well as its unequivocal commitment to the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.

Lieberman also raised the issue of the Iranian threat as a central problem for Israel and the entire region, as demonstrated by the arrest of terrorists in Egypt last week. "Iran with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles; Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip; and Hizbullah in Lebanon - those are the real problems. If we're looking for a stable solution to the Palestinian problem, we must first stop the intensification and expansion of the Iranian threat," Lieberman said.

Following the meeting, Mitchell said the conversation was "good, full and candid."

"I reiterated to the foreign minister that US policy favors - with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a two-state solution, which would have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel, and that we would look forward also to efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace throughout the region," he said.

Israeli diplomatic officials said Mitchell's emphasis on Israel as a Jewish state was significant, saying it was code for the US backing Israel's position that in any future two-state solution, Palestinian refugees from 1948 would be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state, but not to Israel...
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