With all the focus on the Iran nuclear talks in Geneva, it can be easy to forget that bilateral Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are still taking place…sort of.
US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a return to negotiations earlier in the year, and Israeli and Palestinian officials continue to meet at the ministerial level. But to say that any progress has been made would be a gross exaggeration.
According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the problem is the lack of a genuine peace partner on the Palestinian side.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu was criticized from the Knesset podium for having yet failed to conclude a final status peace deal. At the end of the sessions marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the prime minister returned to the podium to answer the accusations.
“I’ve been told, ‘It is all up to you, because you promised peace,’” Netanyahu said. “But we also need a partner … this is not just dependent on the Israeli side, just as it was not only up to the five prime ministers who preceded me… The other side is also needed.”
Netanyahu explained that Israel was able to reach final status peace deals with Jordan and Egypt because their respective leaderships actually showed up ready to compromise and honored their commitments, especially in the case of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
Netanyahu also said that Israeli leaders could no longer ignore the reality of Iran’s growing influence in the Israeli-Arab peace process.
As Iran did in Gaza via its Hamas subordinates, “They have the power to take over territory from which we withdraw – if we do not protect it – with the intention of getting rid of us,” Netanyahu argued.
Iran is a “dominant force, and they are not interested in peace. You cannot ignore this,” he concluded.