On a visit billed as possibly the last effort his country will make to institute the two-state solution, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was in Jerusalem on Monday, where he met with Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin.
Elkin asked the foreign minister to discourage the Palestinian Authority from taking unilateral steps.
"If the Oslo agreement said specifically that the Palestinian Authority will not take unilateral steps to establish an independent state, and after about 20 years it goes to the U.N. and asks for recognition of a Palestinian state, who will ensure that if we sign an agreement they will uphold its conditions?
"In the Oslo agreement as well the international community including Norway were guarantors that the agreement would be upheld and today we see that the Palestinians are being allowed to continue to take unilateral steps that only distance us from a peace agreement. On this issue, the international community must insist that throughout the course of the negotiations, there will be no additional steps by the Palestinian Authority," Elkin said.
Elkin also told the foreign minister there is a problem with the fact that a relatively large percentage of the PA budget, partially funded by Norway, goes to pay salaries to terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons. Elkin said that this sends a poor educational message to the younger generation, since the salary of security service employees, for instance, is one-fourth that of terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons.
Another issue that came up in the meeting was the civil war in Syria. The Norwegian foreign minister was briefed on the issue and it was said in the meeting that Israel must prepare for every scenario.
Elkin also spoke about the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Israel has suspended its activity on the Human Rights Commission following criticism that the commission is systematically discriminatory toward Israel. At present, there is a possibility that Israel may renew cooperation with the commission subject to a drastic change in the commission's attitude toward Israel. Elkin thanked the Norwegian foreign minister for his positive approach to the issue.
On Monday, Eide also met Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Martin Indyk, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East as well as Israeli President Shimon Peres. He later travelled to Ramallah to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
"I believe it's correct and honest of us to say to both sides that either this new round of talks can create the platform to reach the goal, or we have to bury the vision of a two-state solution that was created in Oslo," Eide told Norwegian newspaper The Local.
Eide told The Local that he believed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "sounds increasingly credible" regarding his own willingness to strike a peace deal.
"That wasn't an especially big sacrifice, but it was a first sign," he said.