In Israeli-Palestinian Talks, Many Issues are on the Table

Washington, Sept. 19 – A Palestinian drive for a vote in the United Nations that would grant them either full or observer UN member status cannot resolve the many complex issues that must be discussed and concluded with Israel in order for real, lasting peace to be achieved.

Below is a summary of major issues facing the parties:

Recognition of Israel as a democratic homeland of the Jewish people - The Palestinian Authority and its leaders have not recognized Israel as a Jewish homeland. Doing so would serve as an important confidence-building measure and would help to end the culture of hate toward Israel that is promoted in the West Bank and Gaza. Polls show that the majority of Palestinians who support a two-state solution still do not see that as a permanent solution. Instead, they see the founding of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as the first stage in a process. The second stage would be the eventual elimination of Israel.

Security and final borders - Israel is calling for the demilitarization of a future Palestinian state as well as the possible deployment of the IDF in the Jordan Valley to prevent weapons smuggling into the West Bank. The example of what happened when Israel left Gaza in 2005 is stark. The Iranian-backed Hamas organization, which rejects the existence of Israel, came to power and began firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has called for a return to pre-1967 lines as preconditions for talks. More than 500,000 Israeli citizens live on land that is over the ‘67 lines, many in suburbs of Jerusalem. More than 80 percent live adjacent to the lines and Israel has offered repeatedly to give the Palestinians equal or more land to retain those communities in what they would call “mutually agreed upon swaps.” Israel has expressed willingness to relocate many thousands of settlers who live in further flung communities.

Jerusalem and the Jewish communities the West Bank - The PA insists that Israel halt all construction in most East Jerusalem suburbs and the West Bank. Israel says the future of these communities, which it regards as part of its capital, should be discussed as one of the elements of a final-status agreement.

Resolution of Palestinian refugee issues -The Palestinians continue to demand that Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 and their descendents (around 6 million people) should be able to resettle in Israel. The Israeli position is that the issue can be solved through financial compensation and a “right of return” to the newly-created Palestinian state. Those who wish to should seek their future in the proposed Palestinian state.

Access to crucial resources including water - Both sides suffer from the regional water scarcity and must work together to provide fair access to all shared sources.

Ending incitement; building a constituency for peace - Both sides need to build a solid basis for peace. This means teaching tolerance in schools and propagating pro-peace messages of mutual respect through the media that takes account of the history of the other side. Although the Israeli record is not perfect, Palestinians continue to teach hatred and glorify suicide bombers and terrorists by naming streets and institutions after them. And Palestinian leaders deny the deep historical attachment going back thousands of years of Jews to the Land of Israel.

Additional Legal Points Concerning Unilateral Statehood:

  • A unilateral declaration of independence violates the prevailing Oslo Accords. Israel has signed many agreements with the Palestinian Authority – but none with a Palestinian state. If the Palestinian Authority is replaced with a self-declared independent state, such agreements will become null and void.
  • In the 18 years since the Oslo Accords, Palestinians have not made a settlement freeze a pre-condition to negotiations. Abbas himself negotiated with seven previous Israeli Prime Ministers without such a demand.
  • Abbas’ refusal to meet with Israel is a violation of a pledge he himself made at the Annapolis conference in November 2007: “We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements. We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations.”
  • Abbas is also rejecting the imperative laid down by the Quartet in March 2010, demanding “the resumption, without preconditions, of direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues as previously agreed by the parties.”
  • Lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only come through negotiations that settle all core issues. Furthermore, unilateral steps could diminish the likelihood that the Palestinians create a state that exists alongside Israel in peace and security – a goal that Israel shares.

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