Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor on Monday slammed the Palestinian Authority’s plan to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state, saying that while the current stalemate in peace negotiations is untenable, a genuine solution to the conflict can only derive from a mutually agreed upon final-status agreement.
“What the Palestinians need, and we need them to have, is a Palestinian state — not a statement on Palestine,” Meridor told reporters in Jerusalem. “It’s bad for us and for them that there are no negotiations. We all know the current situation is untenable in the long term. There needs to be change. It’s an anomaly… that needs to be changed into a normal situation alongside the paradigm of two states with agreed boundaries and an end to the conflict.”
This week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to announce his intention to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status from that of an observer entity to a nonmember state. Abbas is scheduled to address the GA on Wednesday morning, half an hour before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take the podium to speak about the Iranian threat. However, Abbas is expected to hold off on formally seeking the upgrade at this week’s GA; analysts say he will do so only after the US elections in November.
Meridor, who is also intelligence and atomic energy minister, said on Monday that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be sought within a peace deal that would establish final borders and end all Palestinian claims against Israel. The UN accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, as Abbas is seeking, will do little to advance the Palestinian cause, Meridor insisted.
“What [Abbas’s] people need in Ramallah, Bethlehem, in Nablus and other places is a Palestinian state, to be agreed [upon] by them and us,” Meridor said. “A statement at the UN might give them some advantage in the world’s public opinion, but this is it. Nothing will change on the ground. I think it’s the easy and wrong way out. It’s not the tough and the right way in.”
‘I would not give up on the idea of an agreement’
Speaking at an event organized by The Israel Project, Meridor also briefly commented on a proposal made Monday by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who advocates a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from much of the West Bank if no peace deal with the Palestinians is in reach.
“I would not give up on the idea of an agreement,” Meridor said, while admitting he had not studied Barak’s plan in detail. If a full accord proved to be impossible, a “partial agreement” needs to be considered, and has in fact been proposed by Israel but refused by the Palestinians in the past, he said.
However, “there is no way we’ll take our army out of Judea and Samaria without an agreement,” Meridor added, referring to the West Bank. “We did it once in Gaza, we saw the results,” he added, referring to Israel’s 2005 disengagement, in which all Gaza settlements were dismantled, which was followed by thousands of rockets fired upon Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip.
Pointing out that his personal view on West Bank settlements is at odds with the government’s position, Meridor spoke out against creating new settlements that would complicate the creation of a future contiguous Palestinian state.
“Our settlement policy should be coherent with our peace policy,” he said. While Jerusalem should continue to strengthen the major settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep under any peace agreement, it should not build “all over the place,” he said.