The prime minister continued, "This year, after many efforts, we jumpstarted the direct talks with the Palestinians. This is an important step in the attempt to advance a peace agreement between us and them. I say this is an attempt because there is no certainty for success. Indeed, there are a lot of obstacles. There is a lot of skepticism and a lot of reasons for skepticism. But we need to try and achieve peace."He has every reason to manage expectations and downplay its chances; his negotiating opponent has no intention of making concessions on any of the key issues - as usual.
"We are trying in good faith, but not in naiveté. We are insisting that any agreement between us and the Palestinians be based on the two principles of security and recognition of the State of Israel as the country of the Jewish people."
"Security," continued Netanyahu, "because no peace will last without strong organs of real security arrangements on the ground. On the ground and not on paper, not some vague international commitment, but real Israeli security arrangements on the ground."
Netanyahu noted that Israel being asked to recognize a Palestinian state, "and it is natural and fitting that we ask from the other side to recognize the Jewish state and the state of the people of Israel. The deep understanding and the belief in our right to live here in this country, our homeland, the country of our forefathers, this understanding is critical for dealing with the challenges of the coming year, of the challenges of the next decade and the future in general."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's talk about an "historic compromise" and said there would be no compromises on core issues such as Jerusalem and borders.Abbas is more than willing to demand that Israelis dismantle all the Israeli communities in the West Bank outside the Green Line and resettle those Israelis within Israel's pre-1967 borders. That move would essentially make Palestinian territory Jew-free, all while Abbas refuses to recognize Israel's Jewish heritage, history, and necessity as a safe haven for Jews from all over the world (including the hundreds of thousands expelled from Arab states following Israel's independence in 1948.
Abbas also reiterated his rejection of Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "We're not talking about a Jewish state and we won't talk about one," Abbas said in an interview with the semi-official Al-Quds newspaper. "For us, there is the state of Israel and we won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
Abbas said that in recent meetings with leaders of the Jewish community in the US, he made it clear that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "I told them that this is their business and that they are free to call themselves whatever they want," Abbas said. "But [I told them] you can't expect us to accept this."
Abbas said that by raising the issue of Israel's right to be a Jewish state, Netanyahu was seeking to "strip" Israeli-Arabs of their rights and turn them into illegal citizens. He said that Netanyahu's goal was also to block any chance of Palestinian "refugees" from returning to their original homes inside Israel.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority sends mixed messages in public statements and tailors that message to the audience it seeks to sway. The key, as always, is what Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are promising to the Palestinian people - and on this front, it's business as usual. The PA is not about to give up its claims to Jerusalem and not recognizing Israel's right to exist. They are trying to have it both ways - but they have not done anything to prepare the Palestinian people for the eventuality of a two-state solution.