Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Oct. 10 - Speaking about Israel’s pleas to the Palestinians to restart peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Spokesman Mark Regev said: “We are ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without preconditions. We were ready yesterday. We are ready today. We will be ready tomorrow.” Regev was addressing a group of German journalists at a briefing organized by The Israel Project.
Regev mentioned that the Quartet on the Middle East – comprised of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – agreed that Palestinians and Israelis should negotiate without any preconditions. He said Israel hopes the Palestinians will back off from their recent strategy of gaining diplomatic recognition of statehood via the U.N. and pursue direct talks instead.
“We would show flexibility on issues that are important for [the Palestinians] if they can be flexible on issues important to us,” said Regev. He was referring to the idea that Netanyahu believes the 1967 lines are difficult for Israel to defend but that Israel is willing to show flexibility on this and other issues if the Palestinian leadership would also reconsider its policies towards Israel as a Jewish state.
“We recognize the Palestinian people have historic connection to the land and recognize their right to self-determination. Why can’t they say the same for us? Why do they talk about Christian and Muslim connections and no mention of our [Jewish] historic connection? If that’s their strategy, it raises doubts about their commitment to peace,” explained Regev.
He also explained that “peace requires recognition of the other side’s existence,” meaning that Israel must be viewed as legitimate in order for there to be real peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said that if Israel is considered a “land-thief or a criminal” then any agreement would stem from Israel’s strength rather than its legitimacy. Hence, only a ceasefire - and not lasting peace - would be attainable.
Regev explained that the Israeli government’s position is that there is no substitute for direct talks and that the core issues are not settlements or borders but about identity and acceptance.