Q: What do you think is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of the changes taking place in the region?
We believe that there is urgency in today’s situation. As more time passes, the danger of the settlementsbecomes more concrete. And it troubles us that the peace process is stuck. The level of trust is also low. It isimportant to begin the process. As the person responsible for relations between Israel and Britain, I say thatif the process is stuck and there are no talks with the Palestinians and people don’t believe that peace has afuture—this will affect the relationship with Britain and Europe and will also influence how Israel is seen inthe world.
Q: As a Jew yourself, do you understand Israelis’ concern for security, if a Palestinian state isestablished?
The issue of security is very clear to me. Israel will make steps toward peace when it believes that peace willmake it more secure. This is understandable and important. Because if we begin from this principle, and you want, like us, to make progress toward peace—you have to persuade the people in Israel that what is being offered does not threaten them and the state. I am certain that the public in Israel refuses to take risks when itcomes to the state’s security.
Q: Why is Europe worried about September and on the other hand, does not explicitly announcethat it will not vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state?
We are worried that September will be a damaging moment for the future of peace. We are worried that it willmake it more difficult in the matter of the trust between the sides. We are worried that this will divert themain message that peace must come about by means of talks between the sides. It could be that this decision will also fuel the flames. For example, in the West Bank and Gaza -- there is real frustration there. If youbring into there the idea of a UN resolution about the recognition of a Palestinian state, and nothing changeson the ground, this will create a dangerous situation. This will only increase the level of tension. People ask us what Britain will do in September and the answer is that we haven’t yet decided. A lot can happen by then. Soour preference is to avoid a situation in which we have to choose either way in a decision that we think isdangerous.
Q: The international Quartet for the Middle East wasn’t able to overcome the gaps two days ago andto issue an agreed-on statement calling to resume the negotiations between Israel and thePalestinians. Why?
That was not an easy moment. We would be pleased to see the talks beginning based on the Obama outline,but at the moment it isn’t clear if this is possible. The lack of trust between the sides is the basic problem. When each of the sides believes that the other side isn’t serious about peace, that is a very difficult situation.Israel did make peace, first with Sadat and then with Hussein—only when it believed the other side. Whenthere is trust, it is possible to progress very quickly.
Q: Do you believe that the impasse in the peace process is related to the system of government andof elections in Israel?
Every country has to choose its system of government. I don’t think that I, as a foreign ambassador, shouldadvise on changes in the Israeli political system. I know that there is a lot of criticism about the electoralsystem in Israel. I’ve heard people say that the system in Israel, despite its disadvantages, ensures that all the