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Gap too wide, says ex-Israeli peace negotiator

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Gap too wide, says ex-Israeli peace negotiator

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If anyone knows how hard it is to gather Israelis and Palestinians around the same table, that person is Yossi Beilin. As a former member of the Israeli cabinet, he was one of the main negotiators of the Oslo peace accords in 1993. He was also at the Camp David talks in 2000. euronews spoke to him from Tel Aviv.

euronews reporter Miguel Sardo:
Ten years on, do you see any chance of this new round of negotiations achieving peace where all other initiatives have failed?

Yossi Beilin:
I’m afraid that the gap is too wide. I don’t believe that it is feasible, that it is realistic to think that Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to bridge such a huge gap. His views are very far from the minimal requirements of President Mahmoud Abbas. As a result of it I’m afraid that the discussions, the negotiations, might collapse very soon.

Miguel Sardo:
More than finding a final and permanent solution for the conflict, you say that leaders should try to reach a temporary and partial agreement. How can that be done?

Yossi Beilin:
In my view, right now, the right policy of the United States should be to change the target of the talks. Rather than to create high expectations and spectacle events in Washington, in Sharm El Sheikh, in other places, to invite all the important leaders and then to have no results, they should target it towards an interim agreement, or partial agreement, or something like this, which might be much more feasible.

Miguel Sardo:
The organisation you lead, the Geneva Initiative, last year presented several propositions to solve the conflict. What is your suggestion for the key issue of Israeli settlements?

Yossi Beilin:
Well, the settlements is the least [sic] problem, because once you have a border, then all the settlements on the East side of this border should be uprooted, and all the settlements on the West side of the new border should be under the Israeli sovereignty and Israel might build as much as it can. So, the main problems are the refugee issues and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the solution is that whatever is Jewish would be Israeli, whatever is Arab would be under the Palestinian sovereignty. And in the old city, the Temple Mount would be under the Palestinian state and the wailing wall under the Israeli state. And about the refugees: we are suggesting a complicated symbolic solution for the refugees so that there won’t be an open right of return, so that every refugee would be able to go to Israel, which is really unrealistic. But the Palestinians who would like to go to the Palestinian state would do it without any impediments and there should be compensations for the refugees.

Miguel Sardo:
Should Israel keep the settlement freeze after September the 26th?

Yossi Beilin:
Well, I believe the building of settlements was idiotic from the first day, 43 years ago, so I did not change my mind since then. And of course I would prefer to have a total freeze and I don’t think there is any wisdom (of having) a freeze of 10 months and not any more than that. The only question is not whether I believe in it, but whether Netanyahu is there at all. I mean Netanyahu was elected in order to increase the settlements, in order to prevent a Palestinian state, in order to prevent implementation of the Oslo agreement, so I don’t believe that the expectations from him, that he will act against all his promises, all his commitments to his rightist constituency, are realistic.