By Yossi Beilin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel
‘The New York Times’ – August 31, 1993
Israel is set to join the 11th round of peace talks, beginning in Washington today, with reinforced hope that the concentrated efforts of all parties to the talks will yield substantive results.
We meet at a confluence of time and circumstance that strengthens our conviction that we must, and can, make peace today’s reality instead of tomorrow’s dream. For the first time, the elements to achieve real progress are all in place.
All the parties to the conflict speak of peace as the only possibility of assuring stability in our region. We all understand that there is a price for peace, and there are more common denominators than ever on the nature of the solution.
Concomitantly, the stepping up of extremist violence in our region adds urgency to the talks. Violence can prevail only where there is no peace.
The parties are getting closer than ever before to common ground regarding the nature of the solution. All parties understand that peace has a price, and all are seemingly ready to pay: Israel will pay with territory. After years of rejection of Israel as part of the Middle East, the Arabs will accept and recognize Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state within secure and defined borders in this region.
The solution will be based on United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. Israel will withdraw on the Golan Heights. The extent of the withdrawal will be based on the content of the peace agreement and on the security arrangements to be decided with Syria.
Israel will withdraw from the security zone in the south of Lebanon once there is a peace agreement. We have no territorial claims to Lebanese territory. Our only concern is providing security for our northern towns and farms, and we believe that the security provided by peace treaties is preferable to security enforced by troops.
There are no major obstacles on the path to peace with Jordan. We are confident that a peace treaty with Jordan will be achieved quickly once there is peace with our other neighbors.
The key to a comprehensive solution of the conflict in the Middle East is progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is mutual agreement to move toward an interim solution that will extend for five years. This will allow immediate self-rule for the Palestiniains who live in Gaza and in the West Bank as we work together to design a permanent solution. Israel’s readiness to carry out autonomy first in the Gaza Strip and in Jericho may accelerate the process significantly.
According to the platforms of the parties that make up the Israeli coalition Government, the permanent solution will be based on Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and from most of the West Bank. We agree to a confederated formula between Jordan and the Palestinians in the West Bank, but we will not return to pre-1967 borders. United Jerusalem will remain the capital of the State of Israel.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s mission to the region in July, and his activity since then, his efforts to assist all parties to refine their views, his help in communicating those views to the parties, all these prove that direct U.S. involvement is crucial to achieve a solution.
Progress toward peace is best nurtured on three tracks: Bilateral talks (including the round about to commence) are bolstered and stimulated by shuttle diplomacy. These tracks are followed closely by the multilateral talks, dedicated to regional cooperation on a multitute of subjects, the material dividends of peace. Each track is a vital component.
How much progress is made in the talks will be directly affected by the stability of the Palestinian message. Palestinian leaders must act cohesively and constructively so that they can take their part in the process. They should not miss the opportunity to move toward alleviating the real suffering of the Palestinians in this region.
The violent opposition of extremists who will go to any lengths to stop a solution underscores the urgency of this round of talks. Time is not on our side. The chance for a stable future in a region of ideological moderation is at risk every day that we do not move toward peace. The absence of peace provides an ideal environment for those who seek to undermine moderation, stability and pragmatism.
There is now genuine will to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We all recognize the urgent need to foster stability in our region. With the invaluable assistance of the U.S. as a full partner in the peace process and with the continuing good will of Russia, the co-sponsor, we enter this round of talks with renewed hope of rapid progress toward a bright and secure peace.