President Shimon Peres issued an appeal Wednesday for international pressure to coerce Hamas into accepting the Quartet terms and recognizing Israel, a move that he said would allow for the resumption of the suspended peace negotiations.
In a meeting with United States National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Peres insisted, “We must find a way to restart the negotiations between us and the Palestinians.” While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “someone that we can negotiate with” and “wants to achieve peace,” the main obstacle in reviving the talks, Peres said, is the recently forged reconciliation deal between Abbas’s Fatah and the Gaza terror group. However, while the agreement came as a surprise and necessitated the suspension of the negotiations, “that is not a cause to stop,” he insisted.
“What is necessary is international pressure on Hamas to accept the basic conditions laid down by the Quartet,” Peres said. “The world is united on those conditions and I believe that Hamas must be given no choice: If they want to be helped, no one should pay for their missiles and tunnels.”
Peres had vowed in an Independence Day interview with The Times of Israel to galvanize international pressure on Hamas to moderate its positions.
Rice — who said Peres would visit the White House on June 25, shortly before he steps down — opened her visit to Israel by telling leaders Wednesday that peace with the Palestinians can only be reached through direct negotiations leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Rice, in Israel for strategic talks, is the first senior American official to visit Israel since nine months of U.S.-brokered talks fizzled out late last month. No progress was made during the talks, and Israel and the Palestinians have been blaming each other for the breakdown.
Rice told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that while negotiations have hit a pause, the US “remains convinced that lasting peace can only be secured through direct negotiations that lead to two viable, independent states living side by side in peace and security,” according to a statement released by the White House.
US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which began last summer, ended abruptly in April without an agreement.
After nine months of negotiations, Israel suspended further negotiations over the unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas reached two weeks ago.
The president also addressed the Iranian nuclear negotiations brokered by the P5+1, praising the sanctions but maintaining that the Islamic Republic’s leadership is not “being fully honest.”
“I believe the sanctions are useful, the leadership in Iran aren’t being fully honest but they wouldn’t say what they’re saying without sanctions,” he said.
Whether Iran is serious about dismantling its program remains to be seen, he maintained. “We are coming to the critical moment when we will discover if they are just offering words or are really serious about change. The world will judge upon actions not words.”
Rice, who met with Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon, stressed that the US will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and maintained that the diplomatic process was the most effective way to reach a viable agreement with Iran. The Obama administration will continue to consult with Israel as the negotiations continue, she said.
Netanyahu and Rice also discussed the security cooperation between the two countries, and the situation in Ukraine and Syria, according to a statement from the White House.
The US and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — reached an interim nuclear accord with Iran late last year and are now holding delicate discussions on a final deal. Nuclear experts from each country were meeting in New York this week ahead of higher level talks scheduled in Vienna next week.
While the talks have yielded some positive signs, the toughest issues must still be negotiated and any deal could fall apart.
Obama and other top US officials have sought to convince Israel that the talks represent the best option for resolving the international community’s dispute with Iran peacefully. Israel sees the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat and has resisted any suggestions that Tehran could be left with some nuclear capacity.
Times of Israel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.