AIJAC welcomes call for negotiations…but
A call for a return to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians by the the Foreign Ministers of Australia and the U.K. has been welcomed by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council…but not their views on the settlements.
Dr Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of AIJAC, said: “We welcome Foreign Minister Carr’s and Foreign Secretary Hague’s call for the Palestinians to return to negotiations without preconditions.
Indeed, the Palestinian leadership has refused to engage in any constructive negotiations with their Israeli counterparts over the last four years, despite repeated, ongoing pleas from Jerusalem to do so.
We also welcome their call for the Palestinians to abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire and to stop all rocket attacks.
However, their claims of the illegality of settlements are highly dubious and have been disputed, not only by Israel but by some of the world’s top lawyers.
Senator Carr and Foreign Secretary Hague should take into account that Israeli policies since 2004 have prevented any new settlements or the expansion of the boundaries of existing settlements, which take up less than 2 percent of the West Bank.
Proposed construction in the area known as E1, which falls within the municipal boundary of a settlement, does not violate those policies.
Furthermore, population and internal growth within these existing settlements would not substantially affect the size, contiguity or viability of a future Palestinian state.
We believe that excessive and misplaced focus on this issue has been at the expense of speaking out on other issues of much greater import.
Besides the Palestinian refusal to engage in any constructive negotiations with their Israeli counterparts, other issues include continued incitement in Palestinian schools and official media, the ongoing rejectionism of elements of the PLO, and the crippling inability of the Palestinian Authority to speak for all of the Palestinian people, with a resurgent Hamas in control of Gaza, unreconstructed in its determination to destroy Israel.”
A communique from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding the meeting of the two foreign ministers stated:
“Summary of Middle East Peace Process comments contained in AUKMIN communique of 18 January 2013
Australia and the United Kingdom:
· called on the United States to lead a major effort in 2013 to achieve a negotiated two-state solution with a secure Israel alongside a Palestinian state;
· agreed that there was a particularly urgent need at this time for progress;
· called on the Palestinian Authority and the new Israeli government “to engage seriously in negotiations without preconditions;”
· said “actions by both sides must be in the interests of peace.” Neither side should create obstacles to that objective;
· called on the Palestinian Authority “to exercise restraint and avoid provocative actions at international forums” following the Palestinian status vote in the United Nations;
· urged the Palestinians “to resolve their internal differences, unite for peace and cease acts of violence against Israel;”
· called for the Palestinians “to abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire and to stop all rocket attacks;”
· “called on Israel to stop settlement activity” and said that “all settlements are illegal under international law” and settlement activity undermined the prospects for peace;
· expressed particular concern regarding recent settlement announcements of the Israel Government including the proposed development of the E1 area; and
· said that resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict will strengthen the forces of democracy and moderation throughout the Middle East.