Photo Credit: Hagai Frid Courtesy IDC
Former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen

Yoram Cohen, former director of the Israeli Security Agency (a.k.a. Shabak or Shin Bet), on Thursday said that, in his view, “reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority is a national Israeli interest and should be sought,” however, “In light of sizeable gaps, lack of trust, and an absence of readiness for serious compromises from the Palestinian side, and the fact the Palestinian Authority is unable to provide an effective response to terror threats, it is difficult for me to envision the possibility of reaching a political agreement in the coming years.”

Speaking at of the 17th Herzliya Conference held at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Cohen stressed that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the most difficult and complex ones, because of numerous religious, national, territorial, cultural, and emotional layers.”

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“The Palestinian Authority’s vision is clear and succinct – a Palestinian state on the ‘67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital,” Cohen noted, but “the Israeli vision regarding the final status of the liberated territories taken 50 years ago in the Six-Day War has yet to be determined.”

Still, Cohen said, ” previous Israeli governments have undertaken many serious initiatives to reach a comprehensive political agreement with the Palestinians, in which the Palestinians were given generous offers, including painful compromises from both sides, both during the eras of Ehud Barak-Yasser Arafat and Ehud Olmert-Mahmoud Abbas. As everyone knows, however, the Palestinian leadership did not agree.”

Regarding security arrangements, Yoram Cohen said that “in recent years a proposal has been submitted to Israel by international parties that assumes that technological means could bridge the security vacuum that would emerge after an Israeli withdrawal. This idea is dangerous and wrong-headed, since the technological means, as advanced as they are, would not in this case provide a satisfactory solution to threats.”

“I recommend in advance that the realistic policy objective be changed to ‘a State-Minus,’ or to a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty and security control,” the former clandestine police chief said. “Reaching an agreement demands a cultural and perceptual change from the Palestinians, including in how they regard Israel, in a significant curbing of incitement, and in effective countering of terrorism. Regarding political positions, I am baffled that the Palestinian leadership struggles to recalibrate its positions on its own. Therefore, significant support from leaders of the Arab states is needed.”

Cohen added, “This challenge stands before the American government – to adopt a common front with the main Arab states to pressure the Palestinian leadership, to make it more flexible in its positions regarding the core issues. This flexibility would be possible only if there would be open support given to these positions and processes, combined with incentives offered the various parties.”

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