Ex-Shin Bet Chief: Conflict With Palestinians Riskier for Israel Than Nuclear Iran

'I want a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people in order to maintain itself,' Yuval Diskin says.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

On the eve of another attempt by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to revitalize the peace process, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin harshly criticized government policies regarding the Palestinians and stated that "the ramifications of failed negotiations are far graver for Israel’s future than the Iranian nuclear program."

“We need an agreement now, before we get to a point of no return, after which a two-state solution will be impossible,” Diskin said at an event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Geneva Initiative. "I say it even though it is unpopular to do so."

Diskin said, “I would like to know that our home here has clear borders, and that we’re putting the sanctity of people before the sanctity of land. I want a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people in order to maintain itself."

"The Geneva Initiative is a solid foundation for a solution of two states for two peoples," Diskin continued, "The negotiations have worn thin – the time has come for a decision to be made."

The Geneva Initiative is an unofficial proposal for peace that was released in October 2003 by a private group of Israelis and Palestinians. The initiative was spearheaded by Oslo architect and former deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin on the Israeli side, and former minister Yasser Abed Rabbo for the Palestinians.

Kerry was due to arrive in Israel Wednesday night for a two-and-a-half day visit focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday morning and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

“It does not seem as though the current government is trying to change the ongoing trend in the settlements," Diskin said. "Our friends in the world are giving up when it comes to implementing the two-state solution. There is great frustration in the West Bank. The Palestinians feel that their country is being stolen from them. Among many Palestinians there is a feeling that there is no future, just a negative past."

Warning of the dangers of postponing peace, Diskin continued: "We must take into account the relationship between the Palestinians and their brothers, the Arab Israelis. The amount of fumes in the air has reached such a level that a tiny spark can cause a huge fire. The situation is very tense, and can explode at any moment.”

Diskin also referred to remarks made by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, saying that “we mustn’t relate to the Palestinian issue as shrapnel in our behind, because soon enough, in a single state for two peoples, they will start to ask – who is the shrapnel, and who is the behind? In such a state, the vision of a Jewish and democratic state will be lost and gone.”

Diskin added: “The coalition in Israel and the problems of control in the Likud are making an agreement with the Palestinians impossible. The tension between the two peoples is making it impossible to reach and implement an agreement. We must seriously include Jordan and Egypt in the negotiations with the Palestinians – it is critical for reaching an agreement.”

“We must create hope. We must give both peoples the feeling that there is a chance for peace. The cynical, political deal set in place by the government to prevent a settlement freeze during the early stages of the negotiations was irritating, and rightly so,” he said.

“We must create a new coalition in the Israeli government, one that includes the parties that support peace,” Diskin said, adding, “My participation here does not hint at any political intentions I might have.”

“There are those in Israel who say that Jordan is the Palestinian state," said Diskin, "Jordan is not Palestine, just like Uganda couldn’t be a home for the Jews. Some propose a unilateral withdrawal (from the Palestinian territories) should the negotiations fail. Such a move would not solve the core of the problem. It would create security issues in the West Bank and eternalize the occupation where it is… Will the Palestinians earn full equality in such a state, or just be residents without voting rights? Masses of Palestinians and Arab Israelis taking to the streets is a perfectly plausible scenario, and not an extreme one.”

Haaretz revealed on Wednesday morning that Kerry plans to present Netanyahu with an American plan for security arrangements in the West Bank to be implemented after the founding of a Palestinian state. The plan was devised by retired General John Allen, former commander of the American forces in Afghanistan. Allen will participate in the meeting between Kerry and Netanyahu, and will summarize his recommendations, in order to receive Israeli input.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.Credit: Moti Milrod

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