Any hope of creating a new Arab state between Israel, Egypt and Jordan has been stymied after the following statement was made by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on December 28:
“Today, 8 months after our government was formed, we have formulated a broad national consensus on the principles to approach the negotiations with the Palestinians in order to achieve peace and security. The two principles are clear, there are others - the recognition of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and of course, security measures that guarantee effective demilitarization and other principles that I have already expressed.”
These two principles -
1.recognizing Israel as a Jewish State and
2.demilitarization of a future Palestinian State
- were first stipulated by Israel as two of fourteen reservations made by Israel at the time of its acceptance of the Road Map issued by President Bush in April 2003.
They have been consistently maintained by all Israeli Governments since then.
Reservation 5 made by Israel to President Bush stated :
“The character of the provisional Palestinian state will be determined through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The provisional state will have provisional borders and certain aspects of sovereignty, be fully demilitarized with no military forces, but only with police and internal security forces of limited scope and armaments, be without the authority to undertake defense alliances or military cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum.”
Reservation 6 stated:
“ In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.”
On 23 May 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:
"The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap.
The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”
On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:
“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.
The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement, and resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the Roadmap.”
Palestinian Authority President - Mahmoud Abbas - told Haaretz on 28 May 2003 that the 14 reservations made by Israel had nothing to do with him. He said:
“They don’t interest me,”
Haaretz reported that as far as Abbas was concerned, the only document that mattered was the road map that was finalized in December 2002 and handed over to the parties at the end of April 2003. Nothing more, nothing less. Abbas continued:
“We do not accept each side picking and choosing only those specific elements that are convenient for them in the road map.
The map was prepared last December and we accepted it, despite our own comments and reservations. We wanted to give this initiative a chance, but it’s impossible to continue inventing comments and reservations after it was submitted.”
This was a very intransigent - indeed foolish and naïve - attitude to adopt in the face of President Bush having specifically invited both sides to comment on the Road Map.
The response from President Bush to Israel’s reservations acknowledged that Israel’s concerns were real and they would be fully and seriously addressed during the implementation phase.
It is inconceivable that President Obama would repudiate the Bush assurances given to Israel.
Both principles have been rejected by the Palestinian Authority on numerous occasions in the past and no doubt will be met by further adverse comment after Mr Netanyahu’s announcement this week.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat commented on 16 June 2009 in Haaretz on the issue of demilitarization:
“He (Netanyahu) will have to wait 1,000 years before he finds one Palestinian who will go along with him with this feeble state.”
President Abbas told Reuters on 27 April 2009 on recognizing Israel as the Jewish State:
“I do not accept it. It is not my job to give a description of the state. Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic—it is none of my business.”
Israel’s reservation went far beyond an issue of terminology - and Abbas knew it. It was resisted by Abbas because it was seen as denying millions of Arabs the right to emigrate to Israel thereby changing the demographics of Israel to seriously dilute or even overtake the Jewish majority.
Rejection by the Palestinian Authority of demilitarization and the recognition of Israel as the Jewish State coupled with rejection by Israel of the Palestinian Authority’s demands that Israel cede sovereignty over every square metre of the West Bank and remove 500000 Jews presently living there amount to a joint public declaration by both sides that any further negotiations between them - if ever resumed - are going to be a complete waste of time and will achieve no result.
The Palestinian Authority has shown no interest in resuming negotiations with Israel since it announced a ten months moratorium on housing construction in the West Bank on 25 November.
The announcement now made by Mr Netanyahu will only act as a further excuse for the Palestinian Authority to continue to refuse to negotiate.
The Palestinian Authority’s use by date as a negotiating partner with Israel to determine the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza has surely now been reached.