Israel has for the first time set its own precondition for any return to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beyteynu party, announced the Jewish State will not negotiate again with the PA unless it withdraws all 15 of its applications to international treaties, conventions and memberships in United Nations (UN) agencies and organizations.
“We will not agree to unilateral actions by the Palestinians without exacting a price from them for that behavior,” Liberman stated in an interview Tuesday morning on Voice of Israel government radio.
While Israel favors negotiations, he said, he does not intend for Israel to be “a sucker.” The PA has incessantly set preconditions as a means of dragging security and other concessions out of Israel prior to entering any form of negotiations. As usual, the current round of talks saw Israel forced by the United States – whose arm was twisted by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – to free dozens of terrorist prisoners in a new round of “good will gestures.”
Four groups of prisoners were to be freed in the deal intended to bring Abbas to the negotiating table and to keep him there, totaling 104 terrorists, including 20 Israeli Arab citizens who were not even technically under PA jurisdiction. To date 78 terrorists have already been freed.
However, this time Israel set a condition of its own: the prisoner release was to be linked to the progress made in the talks, and to the participation of Abbas at the table. But Abbas rarely showed, and had not been seen since November 2013. The talks had accomplished little of significance from the start. Nor did Abbas keep his word, following a pattern he showed during the last such round of negotiations in 2009-2010.
Meanwhile, the final prisoner group would have included the Israeli Arab terrorists, causing a fierce debate among politicians and citizens. Releasing them before the end of the talks, scheduled for April 29, would have left no reason for PA negotiators to come back the next day.
Israeli ministers and citizens balked and the tranche was blocked. Instead, Israel suggested extending the talks till the end of 2014 and offered to free the final group, as well as an additional 400 prisoners if the PA agreed. In response, an infuriated PA decided to go with a flurry of international applications instead, and also threatened to go to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Liberman directly blamed Abbas for sabotaging the talks, saying the PA chairman submitted the applications just as both sides were about to complete a deal for a prisoner release. The foreign minister added there is no way that Israel is willing to narrow down talks to the sole issue of borders, at the behest of the PA. The Jewish State is willing to negotiate all outstanding issues, but demands from the PA to exclude all core issues but one are not acceptable.