Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas` decision on Tuesday to sign the applications for joining the 15 international organizations and treaties was an ”outrageous violation of the basic agreement” that renewed the peace negotiations, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said Wednesday during a meeting with members of the ”Friends of Israel Initiative” at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, he noted, agreed not to take any unilateral steps to achieve international recognition during the nine months of talks US Secretary of State John Kerry jumpstarted in July.
”(Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu was prepared to move forward, but the Palestinians made their position clear yesterday,” Edelstein told the group.
The Speaker added that Israel was ”prepared to pay a very heavy price; and not everyone was sure this was the right decision – to pay the price of the release of terrorists.”
”The Americans were prepared to free Jonathan Pollard…this was a very general Israeli demand which came from the Right and Left. I don`t know what the outcome (of the peace process) will be,” the Knesset Speaker told the Friends of Israel Initiative members.
The goal of the Friends of Israel Initiative is to ”counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.”
The Initiative, which arose ”out of a sense of deep concern about the unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish State and, perversely, supported by numerous international institutions,” is being led by people who are not Jewish and whose motivations are based on the ”firm conviction that Israel is part of the Western world.”
The group consists of such prominent figures as former Prime Minister of Spain José Maria Aznar, former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo, former German Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and former US Ambassador to the UN John R. Bolton.
Edelstein asked the members of the group to ”explain the truth” about Israel around the world.
Addressing the claims that Israel is an ”apartheid state”, the Knesset Speaker this claim could be made against any democracy around the world.
”If you turn Israel into a monster, you can turn every democracy around the world into a monster,” he said.
Asked about the possibility that the lack of progress in the peace process would further strain relations between Israel and the European Union, Edelstein said the agreements between Israel and the EU benefit both sides and are a common interest.
Addressing the political situation in Israel, Edelstein said he believed the current government would remain intact in the near future.
Aznar, who chairs the Friends of Israel Initiative, said: ”Our commitment is a personal commitment…to the existence of the State of Israel, to the democracy of the State of Israel and to the future of the State of Israel. We will continue with this initiative.”
Toledo said during the meeting, ”We are here because it is in our interest that democracy expands.” Those who support Israel, he argued, are not being ”charitable”; rather, ”we are defending our values and interests.”
Speaker Edelstein told the high-level group about the various initiatives launched by the Israeli parliament, including the ”Green Knesset” project, which aims to make the Knesset one of the greenest in the world.
Former first minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel laureate Lord William David Trimble, former foreign minister of the Czech Republic Prince Karel Schwarzenberg and former Uruguayan president Luis Alberto Lacalle were also among the notable figures who took part in the meeting with Speaker Edelstein.