Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Tuesday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemed to be "addicted to the conflict" and therefore is not the right person for direct peace talks with Israel.
Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, Rivlin claimed Abbas was not prepared to leave the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past.
"The attempt to avoid negotiations has become an addiction to the conflict itself. In any peace settlement, we shall have to leave this in the past. Abbas is not prepared to do so," Rivlin said.
"Mahmoud Abbas is mourning for the past, but he is not looking toward the future," Rivlin continued. "This is the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The Knesset speaker also referred in his speech to Israel's adoption of a statement by the Quartet on the Middle East – which includes the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union – that urges both parties to return to direct peace talks.
"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently agreed to the initiative to renew talks along the lines proposed by the Quartet, but the problem is the Palestinians refuse to accept the elementary demand to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish State," Rivlin stressed, a day after the EU's 27 foreign ministers called for a direct renewal of talks.
“The nations of Europe understand very well the vital importance of the existence of a state for the Jewish People. Jewish people lived in many states in Europe, but this situation could not continue in trying times,” Rivlin said, adding that "even if the present Israeli government may be too uncompromising for your tastes," Rivlin added, "you must realize that it is taking this firm stand as a safety measure against illusions for which the Israelis have already paid a very heavy price."
The top Israeli official also issued a criticism of the overwhelming support the Palestinian bid for statehood received in the international community, saying such backing was focused on the establishment of a Palestinian state and less on ensuring the survival of the State of Israel."
"Many in the international community regard the survival of the State of Israel as a given. They assume that Israel's survival as a Jewish State is assured, that it is an undeniable reality," Rivlin said, adding: "I am sorry to say that despite many long years of struggle, the survival of the State of Israel is not yet assured."
Referring directly to the Palestinian bid for recognition in the UN, the Knesset speaker said the move was “a stumbling block” in the ongoing conflict, and dismissed the European Parliament’s decision to support that bid.
"[Abbas'] attempt to gather together mediators from around the world, be it the Americans, the Europeans, the UN or Latin American states, will not succeed," Rivlin stated. "It is true that there have always been many mediators involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there will always be only two central players – only us, Israelis and the Palestinians."
He added that, while he believed the Oslo accords were, “bad agreements,” they did “maintain the basic principle of direct negotiations between us and the Palestinians. The State of Israel, under every one of its governments, always insisted on this basic principle."
Rivlin further criticized Abbas saying that he will not agree to the presence of a single Israeli in the Palestinian state. "This is unacceptable," Rivlin explained, "just as it is not acceptable for there to be no Palestinians in Israel. The Palestinians who live in Israel will always be Israeli citizens with equal rights."
"This conflict can end only when both sides realize that they have not been sentenced to live together, but that it is their fate to live together as the sons of Abraham in this small land," he concluded.
On Monday night, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and Rivlin attended the inauguration of an exhibit at the European Parliament in Brussels, showcasing illustrations based on Gilad Shalit book "When the Shark and the Fish First Met,” which he wrote when he was 11 years old.
“This detention of five years is unjustified,” Buzek said. “Let me assure you, our friends from Israel, and the relatives of Gilad Shalit, that we feel like he is our son, our grandson, we feel like he is a member of our European family."
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