Peace process requires balance

A commitment to peace has been a central goal of every Israeli government. While Israeli efforts aimed at attaining peace have resulted in the conclusion of peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s endeavors to achieve an equitable negotiated peace agreement with its Palestinian neighbors have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Palestinian leadership.

The most recent example of this enigmatic pattern of Palestinian behavior is the refusal by the Palestinians to even renew peace negotiations with the new Israeli government since the Israeli elections in early 2009. The consistent rejection by Palestinians of Israeli peace initiatives and their current refusal to negotiate leaves Israel questioning whether its neighbors are committed to peace.

Since its inauguration in April of this year, the present Israeli government has sought ways to re-engage the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in peace negotiations, which were unilaterally suspended by the Palestinians following Israeli elections. Despite these repeated rejections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has specifically reiterated his call for peace with the Palestinians several times since June. Netanyahu is yet to receive a positive response from the PA.

Recognizing that calls for a Palestinian state are necessary, but not sufficient, for the realization of peace, extensive measures have been implemented by the Israeli government in order to improve the political climate in the region, and to create facts on the ground which advance reconciliation.

The steps that Israel has taken include measures to enhance freedom of movement both within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and Israel. These moves not only improve the quality of life of Palestinian civilians, but also promote economic development.

These measures have contributed to the impressive and encouraging World Bank statistics that show an 8 percent annual growth rate in the West Bank economy, and the projection by Quartet representative Tony Blair in an interview with The New York Times of double digit annual rates of growth.

Recognizing the ease with which terror activities can torpedo progress on the ground and in the negotiating room, and can result in increased security restrictions in Palestinian areas, Israel has taken steps to promote security cooperation with the Palestinians.

Although life in the West Bank has improved significantly as a result of these combined Israeli efforts, Palestinian leaders continue to pursue an international campaign to hurt its economy and undermine its ability to defend itself.

The Palestinians’ rejections of Netanyahu’s many initiatives in pursuit of peace are not unique: they are just the latest in a string of Palestinian rejections of Israeli peace initiatives over the last decade.

Israel has achieved negotiated peace agreements, which have turned previous avowed enemies, such as Jordan and Egypt, into peace partners. These agreements were made possible by the courageous leadership of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, who prepared their people for peace, and made the compromises necessary to achieve peace at the negotiating table. But the Palestinians expect to achieve peace solely on their own terms, without even sitting down to talk.

Israel’s current government has already demonstrated, in word and in deed, its commitment to advance peace and, like all Israeli governments in the past, its willingness to make the compromises needed to reach that peace. Yet the Palestinians refuse to compromise or even to negotiate. It would be a tragedy if the Palestinian leadership once again chose the “all or nothing” approach and rejected the possibility of forging a historic peace agreement.

Reda Mansour is consul general of Israel to the Southeastern U.S.