Israel: The Conflict and Peace
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
How can peace be achieved?
Israel has always been willing to compromise and all Israeli governments have been willing to make major sacrifices for the sake of peace. However, peacemaking requires concessions as well as confidence-building measures on both sides. Just as Israel is willing to address the rights and interests of the Palestinians, Israel has legitimate rights and interests that need to be addressed. Peace can only be achieved through negotiations to bridge gaps and resolve all outstanding issues.
Israel believes that it can make peace with a moderate Palestinian leadership that rejects terrorism. When in the past, Israel met Arab leaders, like President Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who spoke the language of peace and were willing to take concrete steps for coexistence, Israel reached agreements with them and peace was achieved. Israel is willing to stand in peace with all the moderate states of the region.
For negotiations to be possible and for them to have a chance to succeed, Palestinian terrorism and incitement, supported by countries such as Iran and Syria, must be brought to an end. Extremist Palestinian elements, such as Hamas, are unwilling to recognize Israel's very right to exist, and continue to violently act against Israel, against the moderate Palestinian leadership and against the peace process. As such, they have no place at the negotiating table.
Dismantling the terrorist infrastructure is not only the first step in the Roadmap, it is also at the foundation of any peace process. Peacemaking requires the creation of a positive atmosphere, one that is free of terrorism and incitement, and one that promotes efforts to achieve mutual understanding. Israel has on many occasions taken steps to help improve Palestinian living conditions and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy. Israel has made - and is willing to make in the future - goodwill gestures towards the moderate Palestinian camp - such as easing movement by removing road barriers, transferring tax revenues and releasing prisoners. Israel is ready to take many such steps provided that Israeli security is not harmed and that the Palestinians do not respond with terrorism.
Attempts by the Palestinians and the Arab countries to compel Israel to accept unreasonable Palestinian demands will not bring the parties any closer to peace. It is very important that the Arab states do not support hard-line Palestinian positions, making it ever more difficult for the Palestinians themselves to make the necessary compromises.
Positive steps taken by the Arab countries would help generate a constructive atmosphere, as would re-energizing the multilateral contacts which seek to promote regional cooperation. Forward movement and cooperation on issues that affect the lives of all who live in the region would contribute psychologically to tackling the difficult political issues that need to be addressed and resolved.
UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which all parties in the region have accepted, provide an important outline for conducting negotiations on a permanent settlement. Israel has also supported implementation of the measures of the Roadmap. But the Roadmap will work only if the Palestinians fulfill their obligations, something they have not truly begun to do, especially when it comes to dismantling the terrorist infrastructure and ending incitement, as required in the first phase of the Roadmap.
Finally, peace must mean the resolution of all claims and the end of the conflict. Once a peace agreement is reached, a new leaf must be turned and the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel's relationship with all its neighbors must be put on a new footing, one characterized by dialogue and cooperation, rather than by antagonism and confrontation.
How does Israel view the Roadmap?
The Roadmap is a performance-based plan that was formulated by the members of the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN. On May 25, 2003 the Government of Israel accepted the steps set out in the Roadmap in the hopes that this initiative could help achieve a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. However, the Palestinians did not live up to their obligations under the first phase of the Roadmap, primarily the "unconditional cessation of violence."
Israel attaches importance to President Bush's June 24, 2002 vision for achieving peace, as expressed also in the Roadmap. In that speech, President Bush emphasized that achieving the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace requires, as a critical first stage, Palestinian reform and an end to Palestinian terrorism.
Israel's acceptance of the steps of the Roadmap is yet another expression of Israel's willingness to extend its hand toward peace. Indeed the Government's decision reflects a readiness to make profound compromises in order to end the conflict, provided these compromises did not endanger Israel's security in any manner. Furthermore, subject to security conditions, Israel wants to contribute to the improvement of Palestinian life and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy.
However, the Roadmap itself and Israel's willingness to move forward require that the Palestinians also live up to their obligations at each and every phase. Of critical significance is the requirement in the first phase of the Roadmap that the Palestinians undertake an "unconditional cessation of violence" by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, confiscating weapons, and arresting and disrupting those involved in conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere. The Palestinians also have to end incitement.
By its own acceptance of the Roadmap, the Palestinian Authority undertook an obligation to end terrorism and incitement in the manner required by the Roadmap.
However, Israel chose not to wait for the conclusion of the first phase of the Roadmap to begin a dialogue with the moderate Palestinian leadership. Still, the execution of any agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinians depends on implementation of the Roadmap.
(Courtesy: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)