Let us be clear: Palestinians long ago recognized Israel and its right to exist in peace and security. Twenty-two years ago, to be precise. The peace process that began 17 years ago has repeatedly reaffirmed Palestinian recognition of Israel and its right to exist over 78 percent of our historic homeland.

The internationally recognized obstacle to peace is the ongoing Israeli occupation. The problem is Israel's imposition of a "solution" that violates every single aspect of sovereignty while blaming us for not consenting to live in humiliation and subjugation.

Netanyahu's strategy is clear: He refuses to engage in serious negotiations with us on borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, while he simultaneously peddles his own positions in public. During three months of proximity talks and our most recent direct meetings, we presented our positions for every permanent status issue, but we never received a single Israeli proposal. Now, all of what was negotiated over 22 years is being ignored as we hear Israel's new preconditions loud and clear through the world's media.

Netanyahu's most recent proposal is a clear example of his strategy: a two-month partial settlement "moratorium" in exchange for an official Palestinian declaration that Israel is a Jewish state. In other words, he demands for the Palestinian leadership to undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In two months, one might reasonably wager that he will ask us to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel in return for another dubious moratorium. Perhaps two months after that he will ask us to recognize the biblical rights of the Jewish people to "Judea and Samaria," as he prefers to refer to occupied Palestinian territory. Within six months, Israel might have everything it so greedily covets and the two-state solution will be history.

Instead of preparing the Israeli public for peace based on a two-state solution, Netanyahu has been preparing the world for a new blame game. Instead of preparing Israeli society to have an open and shared Jerusalem as the capital of two states, he insists that only Israel will have sovereignty over the whole city. Instead of discussing security arrangements for the Jordan Valley, including the presence of international forces, he insists on continued Israeli military presence. Instead of fully freezing Israel's illegal colonial settlement building on our land, he continues to support his "Zionist brothers and sisters" living in "Judea and Samaria."

Instead of respecting the negotiation process by fulfilling previous Israeli obligations, he attempts to shift the world's focus away from Israel's blatant transgressions of international law by insisting that the Palestinian leadership must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is an illogical and unreasonable Israeli precondition that was never mentioned by Israel before 2004, including at Wye River where Netanyahu led the Israeli delegation, and that has never been demanded by Israel from any other state, including other Arab states with which it concluded peace agreements.

Palestinian demands are clear: a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel separated by the 1967 border, with Jerusalem as an open and shared capital of two states and freedom of access to all its holy sites. We also demand that Israel acknowledges its responsibility for the creation and perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue, and work with us toward finding a just resolution to this issue. In exchange, we offer full recognition of the State of Israel by 57 Arab and Muslim countries, an offer made eight years ago through the Arab Peace Initiative.

If Israel's leadership is not content with Palestinian recognition of Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine and diplomatic relations with 57 of its neighbors, then we must ask ourselves: Is the government of Israel engaged in the negotiation process to reach peace, or is Israel engaged in this process to advance a public relations campaign and buy time to continue its colonial enterprise on our occupied territory?

 

The writer, a former Palestinian foreign minister, is chief of international relations for Fatah and a member of the Palestinian negotiating team.