Negotiations are being conducted between us and the Palestinians. The purpose is to end the conflict. Ending the conflict requires dealing with all of the unresolved issues that are pending between us and the Palestinians, including the core issues.
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs addressed the Knesset plenum in response to a no-confidence motion on entry into negotiations on the core issues without any return and in the face of increased terror:
Madame Speaker, Members of the Knesset, MK Micky Eitan,
First of all, if the no-confidence motion is about the existence of negotiations between us and the Palestinians, then the answer is yes – yes, negotiations are being conducted between us and the Palestinians. The purpose is to end the conflict. Ending the conflict requires dealing with all of the unresolved issues that are pending between us and the Palestinians, including the core issues. It was agreed that the head of the Palestinian negotiating team and I would meet to discuss all of these subjects and issues. Also today a meeting was held, and additional meetings will be held.
I have no intention of conducting the negotiations in the spotlight, dramatically, going into a closed room and staying there until white smoke comes out. Past experience has shown that this way does not bring results. Therefore, in making a choice between headlines, drama, spotlights, going into a room until smoke comes out – and results, I prefer trying to achieve results. And if anyone thinks that without headlines, photo-ops or spotlights there are no negotiations, I do not want to mislead anyone in the Knesset: the negotiations and the process exist. That is the truth and it has to be said. That was the goal and that was Kadima’s platform before we were elected. We presented it to the public. That was part of my desire to be part of the process, part of the Government – to promote the subjects that Kadima presented to the public. These are the basic guidelines of the Government, and that is the direction towards which we are leading. Not to add stability to the Government, but even at the cost of its stability.
Now, the basic principle for the negotiations was set at Annapolis, and here I want to address what you said. It is true that, according to the Roadmap, in the first stage the Palestinians were supposed to reject terrorism, fight the terrorist organizations, and other things that they are committed to today as well. Israel also took commitments upon itself, under the Roadmap – among other things, the outposts, the settlements, etc., and Israel, by the way, evacuated entire settlements, even though that was not included in the Roadmap. Despite the fact that the Palestinians, even when we carried out the Disengagement Plan, didn’t exactly fight terrorism. And for this very reason, because a freeze doesn’t serve Israel’s interests, we decided to enter negotiations without giving up any of the demands that we presented to the Palestinians.
How does that work? It works as follows: the basis established in Annapolis is that all products of the dialogue, the negotiations and the agreements that we reach – if we reach, and I hope that we reach – with the Palestinians will be conditional on full and complete implementation of the Roadmap. So you ask, why go into the room? Perhaps it is preferable to wait? Israel does not intend, at the end of the negotiations, to throw the key to the other side and hope for the best; we intend to make sure that during this period there will be changes on the ground that will perhaps create in the other side an effective address that is fighting terrorism, to whom we can hand the key. If not, the key will not be handed over.
This is the basis established in Annapolis; this is the basis that the Palestinians also signed; this is the basis upon which representatives of the international community – including the Arab states – sat in the room, with the understanding that we are now working on two parallel courses. No – the current negotiations will not solve the terrorist problem in Gaza, and it is our obligation as the government to do everything possible to fight and continue fighting terrorism, and I will not try to fool anyone by saying that entering the negotiating room will cause terrorism to disappear. But at the same time, by not going into the negotiating room you are also not fighting terrorism. When you don’t talk, terrorism doesn’t disappear. We have tried that. Also not talking has a price.
Today we are also carrying out operations – such as in Nablus and in Gaza – to continue the fight against terrorism, and I am not one of those who would say to the Israeli people, here, we are now sitting around the table and everything is going to be all right. I’m not shutting my eyes. Already at a young age I stopped shutting my eyes and thinking that if I don’t look, everything will be fine. You also have to consider what the alternative is and what price we would pay for inaction. Okay? In a choice between two possibilities, we chose to go for a strategy of differentiation between our way of doing things as opposed to pragmatic elements in the PA that, it is true, you gave a description – perhaps not flattering, but a description that I cannot argue with – of their ability to truly make a significant change on the ground, right now.
But, does the process itself allow this, or could it allow this in the future? The answer is yes. Are we working today in the field to generate the change? The answer is yes. We are not stopping our demands or the change in the field; on the contrary, they also know now that Israel’s security is their interest, because even when we reach an agreement, if the desired change doesn’t happen in the field, we have no intention of leaving without a responsible body capable of implementation being there.
The basis of the no-confidence motion says that we are entering into negotiations on the core issues while giving in on the negotiations themselves. I don’t see the fact of negotiating as a kind of surrender. I admit I’m not going into the negotiating room with a defeatist attitude that if I go in to talk, that means I’m going to say goodbye to all my assets. I also have demands of the Palestinians. We are talking about security; the Roadmap is not sufficient from a security point of view. What will be on the other side of the border? Will it be a demilitarized state? What will happen with the crossing points? What will happen with all the topics relating to Israel’s security that up to now haven’t been anchored in a valid arrangement? Don’t we have an interest in putting them on the table?
You spoke about the refugees. I won’t support anything that doesn’t include the principle that any agreement that leads to an end to the conflict will constitute the complete national solution for all Palestinians, those living today in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip as well as those being held in refugee camps as bargaining chips. The only way to convince the world is to say, yes, we accept the principle of two states, because each state will be the complete national solution for that people.
I am not looking for an argument. I also know what the common denominator is between us. We all know that behind all the shouting and all the protests in the Likud Central Committee, almost all of the members of this House understand that the creation of a Palestinian state is meant to serve the supreme goal of the State of Israel and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state with these values entwined. Most of the members of this House want – and understand – that the process is meant to advance this goal. And I believe that my entrance into the negotiating room is meant to anchor and set fundamental principles. I am entering, not out of a feeling of weakness, but out of the desire to establish those principles that are important to me. Yes, I am ready to make significant territorial concessions to do it. I think that most of the members of this House, deep in their hearts, even if publicly they say something else, know that we don’t have to go there because they are pushing us, but because we think it’s good. I prefer to go there when I am in control of the negotiations, when I am in charge of them, and not when plans are left for me on the table that I have to decide whether to accept or not, for good and for bad.
By the way, the Roadmap that we all hold by today was one of those things. You all know that there is a price for what we don’t do, and in what direction we want to lead.
So, yes, in this context there is indeed terror and we are obligated to continue to fight it. True, the pragmatic elements in the PA still must get stronger in order to overcome and to carry out their commitments according to the Roadmap, but the theoretical agreements that I hope to reach will be implemented only on condition of the Roadmap’s implementation.
All of these processes are fragile and sensitive and complex, certainly not easily attainable. I know only how I am going to conduct them, with the requisite responsibility and adherence to the fundamental principles of the State of Israel, in order to establish those principles that you also share.
I hope that we can find the same common denominator with the pragmatists and that a change in the field will occur that will enable us to implement any agreement reached. I know only one thing, I cannot allow myself to sit on the sidelines, waiting for things to pass us by, waiting for the elements that will replace the pragmatists, who might be ideological, extremist, terrorists, who view it as a religious war, a religious war without compromise.
When the conflict is a national one, it is capable of solution by establishing two national states; when the conflict is a religious one, it has no solution. I don’t know if we will succeed in providing this solution. I don’t know. I am not standing here making promises like ‘tomorrow morning we will wake up to a new world, a new Middle East, everything will be good.’ That is not my way; I don’t believe in it. But I do think that I am obligated to try, that we have a responsibility to make the attempt. I think that if we don’t, whoever doesn’t will not forgive himself when he sees the results of his inaction.