Norwegian FM Warns Israel: Pressure Over Palestinians to Resume After Iran Deal

In a meeting with Israeli prime minister, Børge Brende gives ‘friendly advice’ on restarting talks toward a two-state solution.

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Barak Ravid
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Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.Credit: GPO
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

International pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue will resume once Iran and the six powers sign their expected nuclear deal at the end of June, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday.

The warning was reported to Haaretz by a Norwegian diplomat who was briefed on the meeting.

Netanyahu and Brende held an unusually long meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, lasting for about 90 minutes. Brende is considered friendly to Israel, and his warning was offered in the spirit of friendly advice rather than as a threat.

Brende told Netanyahu that given the expected resumption of international pressure over the Palestinian issue once an Iran deal is signed, the new Israeli government must come up with its own diplomatic initiative, the Norwegian diplomat reported. “I hear you loud and clear,” the diplomat quoted Netanyahu as responding.

Brende also told the prime minister that if he wants to resume negotiations with the Palestinians he will have to agree to at least one of the three conditions set by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The conditions, which Abbas presented in a May 15 speech to mark Nabka Day, are: freezing construction in the settlements, releasing all Palestinian prisoners jailed prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and holding continuous negotiations for no more than a year, at the end of which a timetable will be set for ending the occupation no later than the end of 2017.

One of the main components of the international pressure of which Brende warned is a plan by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to pass a UN Security Council resolution that would lay down principles for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and set a firm timetable for completing negotiations on a final-status agreement.

According to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro, France's draft resolution calls for the immediate resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and their conclusion in a permanent agreement within 18 months. If no agreement is reached in the allotted time, France will recognize the Palestinian state, Wednesday's report said.

In the context of his efforts to fend off this pressure, Netanyahu Wednesday reiterated his commitment to the principle of two states for two peoples. This is the first time since the new government was formed that Netanyahu has publicly declared his support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate Israel’s commitment to peace, and my commitment to peace,” Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting Wednesday with the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini. “We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all. My position has not changed. I don’t support a one-state solution — I don’t believe that’s a solution at all. I support the vision of two states for two peoples — a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”

The prime minister added that Israel has taken various practical steps to improve life for the Palestinians in recent months, and would continue to do so in the future.

Netanyahu’s remarks were a response to U.S. and European pressure to clarify his commitment to a two-state solution, in light of his preelection comment that no Palestinian state would be established while he was prime minister. The coalition guidelines don’t contain any such explicit commitment, instead making do with a general statement that the government “will advance the diplomatic process and aspire to a peace agreement with the Palestinians.”

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