February 8, 2014
UK’s Hague: ‘Dark time’ awaits region if talks fail
British foreign secretary predicts rise in international pressure, praises Kerry’s peace efforts
BY LAZAR BERMAN AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF February 7, 2014, 8:37 am 12
Brritish Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Thursday night that failure to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would lead to “terrible consequences” for both sides, and significant international pressure on Israel.
“I have warned Israeli leaders, as well as Palestinians, that much of the world will see this as the last chance at a two-state solution,” said Hague during an interview on the BBC HARDtalk program. “I really pay tribute to [US Secretary of State] John Kerry and to the energy and commitment that he has put into this. And many observers will say if it doesn’t work, that if John Kerry, with all the weight of the United States, all his experience and standing in the Middle East and the world, cannot bring the two sides together to reach final-status agreements, then who can?”
Hague rejected the claims from some Israeli politicians that Kerry and the international community were trying to pressure Israel into accepting an unsatisfactory peace agreement.
“Nobody is putting a gun to anybody’s head. If anything, what the EU is offering with our strong support is an unprecedented package of economic partnerships and assistance, to work with Palestinians and Israelis if this is successful. There is a real positive vision there.”
The secretary was berated by Israeli politicians for warning recently that the Jewish state faces the serious threat of a widespread boycott and delegitimization campaign if current talks with the Palestinians don’t yield results. Those talks began in July 2013 and are scheduled to end in April, with no concrete results thus far.
“And if it doesn’t happen, if there isn’t agreement on these things, then this, I think, will be a very dark time, both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” Hague warned.
“There are terrible consequences to fear. And certainly, it would bring a great deal of international pressure on Israel, including at the United Nations, and there would be many moves for the Palestinians to seek greater recognition at the UN, which would command a huge amount of international support.”
Amid reported deadlock on many core issues, the closed-door negotiations have reportedly come down to a matter of a few percentage points on the issue of territorial compromise. Both sides agree in principle that the majority of Jewish West Bank settlements would be transferred to Israeli sovereignty in a final-status deal.
Citing anonymous Israeli, Palestinian and American sources close to the negotiations, the Walla news site reported on Thursday that Israel is seeking to annex about 10 percent of the West Bank’s land area in a final deal. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are seeking to have Israel annex only around 3 percent of the West Bank, the report said.
Kerry is expected to present, in the near future, the so-called “framework agreement,” a nonbinding document intended to outline a final-status agreement, the principles of which have been agreed upon by the two sides.