The Palestinians “have not moved one inch” in their negotiating positions since 1994, while the Netanyahu government has made dramatic concessions unacknowledged by world opinion, Israel’s former national security adviser said on Thursday.
Speaking on a panel titled “Whither Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations?” organized by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Yaakov Amidror compared Israel’s current offers to the Palestinians to those presented by former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to the Knesset on October 1995, a month before his assassination.
“Israel made huge steps towards the Palestinians, while the Palestinians — at the very least — did not budge an inch. In certain areas, they even moved backward,” Amidror said.
Amidror served as national security adviser under Netanyahu from March 2011 until November 2013, and was involved in the current round of talks with the Palestinians. As a senior officer, he served as head of the research department in Military Intelligence and as secretary to the minister of defense.
The retired Israeli general highlighted two issues where Israel made a dramatic move towards the Palestinians: accepting a Palestinian state, while Rabin only agreed to “less than a state”; and limiting the Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley to the Jordan River, while Rabin envisioned the entire valley under Israeli control.
On the latter issue, Amidror said, “The Americans didn’t even notice the difference until we turned their attention to it.
“The world doesn’t acknowledge the huge shift Israel made, and even in Israel there’s low sensitivity to this,” he added.
In the past, Israel has accepted the principle of land swaps with the Palestinians in the ratio of 1:1 for inhabited areas in the West Bank annexed by Israel, a principle Rabin never envisioned, he said.
Tactically, Israel has agreed in the past years to undertake goodwill measures intended to advance negotiations, such as a freeze on settlement construction in 2010 and the release of Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands.
“From a diplomatic point of view, I know of not one Palestinian concession since the start of negotiations until today,” he said.
“They [the Palestinians] have a clear line: They want a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. Everything else is secondary. Why? Because they feel as though they’ve made their big concession already by settling for 22 percent of what they regard as historic Palestine.”
Amidror highlighted the importance of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Such recognition, he said, is not important for Israel — which will continue defining itself as it wishes — but for Palestinian society, to “close the issue of 1948,” or the very existence of Israel.
“The more I speak to Palestinians, the more I understand that the real issue for them is 1948, not 1967,” he said. “It’s clear to me that if the agreement with the Palestinians does not include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
Amidror expressed deep understanding for the Palestinian difficulty with Israel’s creation. “There is no other case in history where a nation returns to its land after 2,000 years, claiming ownership over it while knowing that an indigenous people is living on it,” he said.
“This is truly a strong argument for the Palestinians and for the world,” he added. “[The Israeli precedent] could destabilize the entire world order.”