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June 13, 2015

A Call for Peace Negotiations—But Qualified

This past week current and former key Israeli leaders focused on the potential for resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians as well as the viability of reaching a two-state solution in the near future during speeches at the annual Herzliya Conference on Israeli military and diplomatic policy.

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres told conference attendees, "If we do not start negotiating [with the Palestinians], Israel could become an Arab state. We will be eaten demographically. This would be the end of the dream of a Jewish and democratic state." Peres argued for “both sides [to] approach the negotiating table without preconditions,” and called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “the most comfortable Arab leader to negotiate with, he fights terrorism in cooperation with Israel, and says courageous things that no other Arab leader does.”

While Peres called for a return to negotiations Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that he does not foresee the development of a Palestinian state in the West Bank in his lifetime.

Speaking to the press ahead of his address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel wants “two states for two peoples: a Jewish state, a Jewish nation state – Israel, living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state.” Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the 14 month impasse in negotiations and called Palestinian efforts to obtain a peace deal through international proposals counter-productive. Like Peres, Netanyahu called for a return to peace negotiations with no preconditions.

During a news conference Wednesday with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic in Belgrade, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the review of all political, economic and security agreements with Israel. Abbas told reporters, "Israel must stop violating agreements and commit to them. They should stop settlement activity, 'Judaisation' activities in Jerusalem that bury its Islamic and Christian religious identity and features, and release prisoners." He also restated previous preconditions for restarting peace talks with Israel, among them a halt of all settlement construction. According to Abbas, peace talks would need to be held for a year, during which a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank by 2017 would be agreed upon by both sides.

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