Israel Minister: Palestinian State Serves to Perpetuate Mideast Conflict

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar criticizes Palestinian Authority for turning to UN for recognition despite repeatedly rejecting Israel's peace offers, negotiations.

The Palestinians want to achieve independence in order to perpetuate their conflict with Israel, not to end it, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said on Thursday, adding that the Palestinian Authority repeatedly refused peace negations in the past.

Sa'ar's comments come amid an effort spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to downplay an upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations next week.

 Gideon Sa'ar
Nir Kedar

Netanyahu said earlier Thursday that his speech at the UN would stress that negotiations are the only road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, adding in talks with the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that Israel would agree to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status at the United Nations as long as it is not declared a state.

Speaking in a Rosh Hashanah event, Sa'ar severely criticized the Palestinians' UN bid, calling the Palestinian Authority "serial peace refusers. From 1947 they always knew to say 'no' to negotiations."

"They don't want to end the conflict by founding a state. They want a Palestinian state that would serve as a basis for the continued conflict between us and them," the education minister added.

Speaking of what he saw as proof of the Palestinians' unwillingness to achieve peace, Sa'ar referred to peace talks between former prime minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former PA President Yasser Arafat, saying that the PA even refused a state within 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The education minister also spoke of Netanyahu's upcoming speech at the UN, saying that Israel was "in the midst of an ongoing diplomatic battle, and there's no one better to present our stance in the international arena than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

Netanyahu is scheduled to speak next Friday at 2 A.M. Israel time, a few hours after PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. President Barack Obama is to be in New York at the same time Netanyahu is there, but no meeting has been scheduled between the two.

Netanyahu continued his talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale on Thursday, as well as Ashton and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, in an attempt to reach a compromise that would prevent an Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the UN. But no breakthrough was made, and the PA's appeal to the United Nations next week is regarded as inevitable.

Netanyahu told his interlocutors that granting the PA the status of a state would allow the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over issues like settlement construction. "But as long as it is less than a state, I'm ready to talk about it," a source familiar with the conversation quoted him as saying.