Tuesday, January 22, 2008

REPORT: Annapolis and beyond. (Mark Regev.)


Mark Regev, the former Australian who is now the Spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister, addressed a standing-room only capacity crowd on Tuesday, 22/1/08 in the hall of the Kew Shule in Melbourne, Australia.

Some of the remarks he made are summarized below (MM):

Contrary to the impression one may get from media reports, Israel today has some form of relationships with half of the Arab League. As well as that, there are formal peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan,- ‘though, while they may not be very warm ties, however a cold peace is preferable to a hot war.

Annapolis was not meant to bring results on the spot. It is the follow-up from Annapolis which is the most important. The decisions taken there were intended to produce a formula for progress.

1. The Tony Blair track: i.e. he has to work with the Palestinians in capacity building. The legacy of Arafat is a dysfunctional society, which is comparable to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and this has to be completely rebuilt and repaired. The moneys pledged by the European Union must be overseen by him and used to bring about jobs and investments, not graft and corruption.
2. Both parties must commit themselves to the Quartet’s Road Map.
For the Palestinians, this involves immediate disarming of illegal armies; stop incitement and build a healthier political environment. Israel has also responsibilities to implement some of its commitments re illegal outposts and illegal settlements to be dismantled.
3. Political dialogue between the parties must start to show their mutual commitment and their interest to discuss core issues. However, this political track cannot proceed faster than the other 2. It is proposed that some form of agreement will be reached by the end of the year, but it will be difficult and fraught with many stumbling blocks.

The Israeli Government is interested in a stable, contiguous State and a healthy Palestinian Society as its neighbour, not a failed State.

Ultimately they will have to follow and be dependent upon the Road Map. Realistically, compromises will need to be made on both sides.

Mark then offered to run it like a Press Conference, answering probing questions from the gathering. The following points came out as a result.

Accepted that 2 States for 2 peoples is the eventual desired result. Israel solved the refugee problem for the Jews and a Palestinian State will do the same for the Palestinian refugees.
• There used to be a belief that there are no Palestinians as such (Golda Meir), but simply Arabs who will be absorbed by the vast array of ME Arab countries. Mark assured everyone that the Palestinians have a strong national identity and we must be fair. It is similar to us Jews, who for centuries were not allowed to be recognized as a people and a nation, but simply as a religious group. (Some still want to believe that.) They, like us, are prepared to fight for a homeland.
• Re the hatred inculcated in the population over the decades, how can one deal with this leadership? Must try to overcome it and cultivate the moderates, just as one had to do after ww2 in Europe when enemies came together. Must empower them so that they can overcome the extremists.Must prove to them that it is in their interest first and foremost to moderate their views.
• Re failures of Oslo,- must learn from the mistakes and try not to repeat them. New ones may be made, but one must learn from the past failures.
• Re Bush’s visit,- result was a good feeling in Israel,- that they are on the "same page" re Iran also.
• Re Hamas,- there is absolutely no political logic re their actions. They are isolated from everyone,-inc. those who came to Annapolis. Those present were invited because they want to see stability in the ME,- Hamas et al. do not. In whose interest is it to target the Southern town of Sderot with their rockets? It’s a “nihilist” approach!
• Re Sderot,- no immediate solution. The Government asks the inhabitants to have patience, be strong and gives them whatever support it can.
• Re territorial concessions,- the Government does not have to give up any territory, until Final Status talks, according to the Road Map. Mark assured everyone re JERUSALEM that although both peoples want it to be their Capital, Olmert as the former Mayor of Jerusalem is hardly going to jeopardize the status of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish State of Israel(applause). (It is obviously the boundaries of Jerusalem that will eventually have to be determined!MM)
• Re Eretz Israel: why should Jewish-claimed land in the West Bank territories be relinquished? Although both the PM and FM are brought up in the Betar tradition, i.e. on the Right, the realities on the ground made them realize that they have no wish to administer a few million Arabs under Israeli sovereignty. No one wants a binational State like Lebanon!
INDONESIA: as the largest Moslem country, could play a more important role than as a spectator. They could be involved in trying to assist the Palestinians and help ensure the peace process to be accepted more widely in the Arab world.
Islamic fundamentalism is a huge threat, not only to Israel, but also to the whole world. On the one hand one must extend the hand of friendship to shore up the moderates, but with other hand, one must keep Hamas, Iran, Al Queda, etc. at bay. Al Jazeera has a lot to answer for in inciting rejection of all good initiatives and intentions by Israel.
SAUDI ARABIANS: still difficult to deal with, but there are some positive indications that a stable ME is also in their interests.
ABASS, with all his faults is still the only one to talk to. He has many internal challenges to deal with and Israel, Blair and others have to try and help him.
IRAN is not only Israel’s problem, but everyone’s problem. A nuclear Iran is totally not acceptable to Israel. Sanctions which affect the elites more than the average Iranians may eventually work. Diplomatic pressures have to be employed, but tightend, not relaxed.

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