Minister Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid), who has made headlines for his support for the Arab Peace Initiative and public criticism of Israeli interrogation techniques, has stated that he now believes it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, that is proving an obstacle to negotiations.
Perry spoke during a Knesset event organized by the Geneva Initiative organization.
“At the current time, we have to be honest and say that it seems the obstacle to renewing talks is on the Palestinian side,” he declared. “I have to say, I’m sorry about that.”
He explained, “At a time when the Prime Minister of Israel explicitly declares that he is prepared to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, and the American Foreign Minister invests all his energy in attempts to restart the process, and the Quartet is sparing no effort to build cooperation and an economic framework that will serve as a basis and support for the diplomatic process, at a time when there is majority support both in the Knesset and in the Israeli public for moving the peace process forward – I can’t understand why the Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to come back to the negotiating table and give the process a real chance.”
Perry immediately balanced his criticism with an expression of sympathy for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. “I am not discounting the difficulties and complications facing the Palestinian Authority Chairman as he returns to the negotiating table, both politically, within the PA, and against Hamas,” he said.
Abbas must also face “the Palestinian public’s deep fear and growing doubt due to the many years in which [the process] has been frozen,” he added. However, he said, “there is reason for serious concern that the failure of the current attempt to restart negotiations could have serious implications for both sides, in terms of security, politically, and on the international stage.”
Despite his criticism of Abbas, Perry reiterated his support for the Arab Peace Initiative, also known as the Saudi Initiative, which promises that Arab states will normalize their ties with Israel if Israel will withdraw from Judea, Samaria (Shomron), the Golan and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City and Temple Mount. The initiative also demands an agreement regarding the “right of return” – the Arab demand that millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel be allowed to “return” to Israel.
“The Saudi Initiative is one of the currently existing paths the state of Israel could take to solve the conflict, and it requires serious thought,” he argued.
“Of course, we cannot accept the principles of the initiative exactly as they are… But they could definitely be a basis and a starting point for negotiations, and point out the direction we need to take,” he continued.
The Geneva Initiative is an organization created to encourage support for the Geneva Accords, an agreement reached between left-wing Israelis and PA officials lacking the political power to authorize diplomatic plans. It gets significant foreign funding, which it uses to provide tours and other events aimed at encouraging Israeli politicians to support its plan.