President Reuven Rivlin. (Mark Neyman/GPO) (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin

In a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said that the French initiative to restart the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians is based on false assumptions and past mistakes, and therefore will not succeed. Rivlin also noted that there is growing frustration that Israel’s core concerns are not being taken seriously by the European Union and that Europe must respect Israel’s democracy and sovereignty.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday in Hebrew, the Israeli leader said that Israel seeks peace and support a process, but there is no substitute to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The French initiative suffers from fundamental faults. The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” he stated.

Rivlin also pointed out that the timing of the initiative was erroneous. “Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize.”

Rivlin invited the Europeans, who announced they endorsed the French initiative on Monday, to partake in the process, but cautioned them to serve in a constructive capacity.  “If Europe is interested in serving as a constructive factor in striving for a future agreement, it will be incumbent upon you its leaders, to focus efforts at this time in a patient and methodical building of trust. Not through divestment, but through investment; not by boycotts, but by cooperation.”

The French initiative entails indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, at least in the beginning, with international arbitration and an international resolution to pressure Israel into concessions that could hinder its security.

France held an international summit at the beginning of June to discuss possible solutions, while Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to attend. No real conclusion was reached at the summit, while diplomats nevertheless vowed vaguely to reinvigorate a peace process that has been all but dead for two years thanks to the Palestinian’s refusal to meet with Israeli leaders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to pursue peace and has repeatedly stated that the only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations. At the same time, Palestinian leaders won’t engage in direct talks with Israel and have vowed to never again do so.

European Intolerance and Misunderstanding

The president also noted that there was growing frustration that Israel’s core concerns were not appreciated by the European Union. “Just like you, Israel faces difficult and complex challenges. But, unlike Europe which embarked upon a process of removing partitions between nations and states, Israel wishes, and indeed must, remain first and foremost a national homeland, a safe haven for the Jewish People.”

He noted that, “the State of Israel is by no means a compensation for the Holocaust, but the Holocaust has posited as a basic tenet the necessity and vitality of the return of the Jewish People to history, as a nation taking its fate in its own hands.”

“I feel that the massive criticism aimed at Israel in Europe stems from, inter alia, a misunderstanding and an impatience toward this existential need of the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel,” Rivlin said. “On the other hand and much to my regret, Israel has a growing sense of impatience (when it comes to Europe). There are those who feel anger and frustration toward certain European actions, vis-à-vis what they perceive as sometimes unfair criticism, sometimes even contaminated by elements of condescension, and some would even say double standard.”

He asked the representatives of the European nations to consider, with patience, Israel’s concerns, and respect Israel’s democracy and sovereignty.

“I speak to you today in the name of a nation which abhors war and desires life and peace. And I must say: one cannot hope to achieve better results while resorting to the same outlooks and tools which have failed time after time previously,” Rivlin stressed.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel