The Palestinian U.N. envoy said Israelis and Palestinians are at “a turning point” in resolving their decades-long conflict. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador said his country is willing to take risks for peace.
But the two diplomats, speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday, laid out very different visions of what a peace deal would look like. Their contrasting versions signaled a tough road ahead following U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement Friday night that progress has been made toward a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said a two-state solution “is irreconcilable” with Israeli settlement construction. He reiterated the Palestinians’ longstanding position that a solution must be based on pre-1967 war borders with Jerusalem as a shared capital, positions rejected by Israel. He said there must also be “a just, agreed solution for the Palestinian refugee question.”
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said Israel is willing to take risks to end the conflict. He reiterated his country’s vision of “two states for two peoples - one Arab and one Jewish - living side-by-side in peace and security.” The Palestinians have not accepted that premise.
Israel made peace with Egypt and Jordan, Prosor said. “But peace requires leaders who will reject terror and embrace partnership; leaders who oppose incitement and promote tolerance; leaders who will raise their people up, rather than tear Israel down.”
He pointed to a doubling of Palestinian attacks against Israelis between 2011 and 2012 - with 2,736 attacks last year, including shootings, rockets, improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails.
Kerry made six frenetic trips to the Middle East in as many months to cajole Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into returning to the negotiating table. His effort resulted in a deal which he said “establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Kerry said top negotiators for the two sides would come to Washington soon to begin preliminary direct discussions to formalize the deal.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.
Abbas has sought a commitment from Netanyahu that Israel’s pre-1967 border will serve as a baseline for negotiations. Israel has been insisting that that peace talks resume without preconditions and that all issues should be resolved through dialogue.
Mansour told the council that Palestinian leaders have never placed conditions on the peace process but have called for international law and U.N. resolutions to be respected.
“Such respect is what will ensure that the negotiations to resolve all final status issues - Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, prisoners and water - ultimately result in conclusion of the just, lasting peace we have sought for decades,” he said.
Mansour also stressed “the imperative of clear parameters and a set time frame for the conduct and success of the (peace) process.”
Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the Security Council that “nobody else but the parties themselves can make the hard choices required to achieve peace, but the international community and the region should cooperate in a concerted and committed manner to drive the peace process forward.”
He said the U.N. is “unequivocal” that Israeli settlements violate international law and Israeli commitments. He expressed regret that despite earlier reports of Israeli restraint, there have renewed steps in settlement planning over the past month, both in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Continuing settlement activity would not be conducive to creating a favorable environment for negotiations,” Serry said.
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