By Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post
The stated goal of the nascent diplomatic process should be a historic reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, and not just a two-state solution, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Sunday, on the eve of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s next visit to mediate indirect talks.
Ayalon, speaking to The Jerusalem Post, said that framing the upcoming discussions as trying to get to a two-state solution was to define the problem in too narrow a fashion.
“For this to be a lasting peace,” Ayalon said, “what was needed was reconciliation based on co-existence.”
Ayalon said that Israel would agree to a Palestinian state if this was the way the road had to go to lead to a historic reconciliation, but could not agree to a Palestinian state that would infringe on vital Israeli interests and not result in the longed-for historic agreement.
“We want peace, and understand it will entail two states,” Ayalon said. “We also want to move as fast as possible. But we can’t be fatigued or impatient. We can’t work under a time limit.”
Ayalon said it was crucial for the Palestinians to show more flexibility toward Israel and pointed out that in the 17 years since the Oslo process began in 1993, all Israeli parties have moved a long distance toward accepting the idea of Palestinian state.
By comparison, he said, “the Palestinians have not moved an inch.”
Ayalon said the US is aware of this and is “pragmatic.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, is expected in the region on Tuesday, and will hold talks in Ramallah that day and Wednesday, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA leaders.
On Thursday, after Shavuot, he is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The US envoy is still trying to bridge wide gaps between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the timetable for the indirect talks, as well as the agenda of those talks.
While the Palestinians want to begin the talks by discussing the issue of borders, picking up where talks left off with former prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, Netanyahu has made clear that Olmert’s offer to Abbas – which the Palestinian leader rejected – did not bind him.
At the end of 2008, Olmert, according to his own admission, offered Abbas 93.5 to 93.7 percent of the territory, a one-to-one swap for most of the rest, and an arrangement whereby no one would have sovereignty over the “holy basin” in Jerusalem, but rather it would be administered by a consortium made up of the Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Saudis and Americans.
While the Palestinians want to begin the Mitchell-mediated discussions by talking about borders, Israel wants the talks to focus on security arrangements of a future Palestinian state. Among the security-related issues Israel wants to discuss are the following:
• How to guarantee that the future Palestinian state will be demilitarized.
• How Israel will monitor the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to ensure that weapons are not smuggled in.
• How to come to an agreement regarding Israel’s right to use the airspace over the future Palestinian state.
• How to find a mechanism that would enable Israel to pursue terrorists across the border in the event of a terrorist attack.
• How to ensure Israeli monitoring and surveillance stations will be established in the new state, at least for the first few years.
While months of talking about the sequencing of these issues has not yet yielded any results, there is a degree of expectation in Jerusalem that the two issues – both borders and security – will be discussed during the indirect talks in parallel.