Sunday, May 3, 2009

Israel Accepts Two-State Route to Peace Agreement, Ayalon Says



By Gwen Ackerman and Jonathan Ferziger

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Israel agrees that a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians will entail a two-state solution, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said.

"The government of Israel, because of our democratic tradition and because of the continuity principle, is going to abide by all previous commitments the former government took, including the acceptance of the road map to peace which will lead to a two-state solution," Ayalon said, referring to the internationally backed 2002 peace plan.

Ayalon spoke in his office in Jerusalem ahead of a series of meetings Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government will hold abroad with foreign leaders. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman heads to Europe tomorrow and President Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on May 5. Netanyahu will visit Washington later this month.

The prime minister has so far stopped short of endorsing Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu, who was skeptical of peace talks held with the Palestinians by his predecessor Ehud Olmert, has said he will focus on improving the Palestinian economy in the West Bank.

Lieberman's four-day trip to Europe will take him to Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Germany.

In March, European Union foreign ministers said that the bloc's ties with Israel might suffer if Netanyahu's government ditches the two-state principle for ending the conflict.

"If Israel is interested in Italy's support in Europe, it must prove its friendship and demonstrate appropriate policies," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth today.

Stronger Sanctions

"We do want to see peace and do understand that long-term peace and stability will entail a two-state solution," the 54- year-old Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said.

Iran is "trying to derail" any progress toward peace, Ayalon said, by supporting the Gaza Strip-based Islamic militant Hamas movement and the Shiite Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.

He called for stronger international sanctions against Iran to pressure it to halt its nuclear program, which Israel believes is aimed at building a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its nuclear program is meant to produce electricity.

Iran has defied three sets of United Nations sanctions against its nuclear-enrichment activities, denying Western suspicions that it is seeking a weapons capability. European Union governments are set to back President Barack Obama's bid to engage Iran in dialogue, a draft EU statement said on April 27.

The talks "shouldn't be open-ended," Ayalon said. "The time should be measured by months and not years."

Ayalon, who is a member of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, believes the Moldovan-born foreign minister could play an important role in getting Russia to impose restrictions on Iran as well.

"Without Russia we can't have a full and hermetic structure to stop the Iranians," he said. "I believe that if Russia is on board, China will not stay behind."

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at; Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at

Last Updated: May 3, 2009 09:59 EDT

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