Wednesday, June 29, 2011

OPT: Future of Two-State Solution, Arab Peace Initiative, Quartet Road Map Examined at Brussels Meeting

Speakers Look at Current Prospects For Middle East Peace from European Perspective

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

BRUSSELS, 28 June — The viability of the two-State solution, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative and the effectiveness of the Quartet’s Road Map in bringing about a just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict — along with Europe’s role in reaching that goal — were examined this afternoon as the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process held its first plenary session in Brussels.

Entitled “Peace or process: taking stock of European efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking”, the session followed the opening of the two-day Brussels meeting, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which is looking at the role of Europe in advancing a two-State solution to the conflict.

Addressing this plenary session were VĂ©ronique De Keyser, Member of the European Union Parliament; Neve Gordon, Professor of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel; Abdelaziz Aboughosh, Ambassador of Palestine to Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam; and Clare Short, former Member of the British Parliament.

Surveying the range of positions towards the peace process in Europe, Ms. DE KEYSER stressed that “ Europe speaking with one voice” did not exist. It was agreed, however, that peace negotiations and the realization of a Palestinian State were crucial. In her socialist group, it was thought that those two developments must progress in synergy. In most areas, however, a different range of opinions characterized the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the Parliament. The refusal to recognize Hamas under any circumstances as well as measures to curb settlement expansion were major points of contention. Even though broad and serious humanitarian concern had been the basis of action, the legal jargon contained in United Nations resolutions had been prevalent.

Broader consensus, she said, had been developing recently around the Goldstone Report, the flotilla incident and the development of a national unity government, for which dialogue with less extremist factions had been envisioned. However, consensus in those areas had been too fragile, in many cases, for the Parliament to take action. A new momentum could be sensed now due to the democratic aspirations in the region, which Europe wanted to support without creating a double standard by ignoring Palestinian aspirations. Other causes for that momentum included the successful building of Palestinian institutions and developments in Palestinian reconciliation.

She said it was clear that the Parliament would continue pushing for peace negotiations, with or without conditions. On the evolution of positions on the statehood issue, she noted that Germany, the United Kingdom and France had declared in February that peace and a Palestinian State were linked. Europe’s lack of a stance on Hamas was problematic, and it was hard to predict what it would do if the United States decided to impose sanctions on a government that included Hamas. In her opinion, recognition of the right of independence was a way of giving hope to people that had endured long-term occupation. In that context, she predicted that Europe would not give up its belief in equality and the need to avoid double standards in its promotion of the two-State solution.

Doubtful that the two-State solution was viable at all, Mr. GORDON said that the Palestinian appeal to the international community for recognition of statehood through the United Nations might be the last chance for salvaging that model, because of the demographics of inexorable settlement growth, which he said had been supported by the Israeli Government throughout the last 20 years of peace negotiations. If the bid for United Nations recognition failed, then a paradigm shift towards a one-State solution might very well take place, he suggested. In his thinking, there were two possible models of the one-State solution, with the first being similar to the situation that currently existed, which he labeled an apartheid situation that could not be sustained over time.

The second one-State solution, which Mr. Gordon saw as more sustainable, would also preserve existing borders, but would be a “democratic bi-national model”, based on an agreed-upon form of power sharing in a federal government led by Israeli Jews and Palestinians, with a liberal form of separation of powers. That model would have to address the minority’s collective rights and underscore the notion of “parity of esteem”, namely, the idea that each side respect the other’s identity and culture. It would perhaps include some form of internal territorial partition as well, with porous borders.

Mr. ABOUGHOSH, on the other hand, saw a substantive foundation for the two-State solution already laid by the Arab Peace Initiative, confirmed by Arab League summits from 2002 to 2008 and widely supported in the international community. He said the Initiative called for full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since June 1967 under the land-for-peace principle and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital in return for its being recognized by 57 Arab and Muslim countries with full, normal diplomatic relations.

Describing support for the Initiative from much of the international community, including various European leaders, the Quartet as a whole, the Non-Aligned Movement and other groups — along with a positive reaction from United States President Barack Obama — he said that the Palestine Liberation Organization had exerted tireless efforts to garner support for it in its quest for a just and comprehensive peace in accordance with international legality. The Initiative required comparable commitment from the Israeli Government. However, the Israeli Government was still ignoring it or attacking it in the press. However, Arab support for peace remained clear, he said.

In another assessment of the prospects for a two-State solution, Ms. SHORT said that if taking stock of European support for peace-making efforts in the Middle East meant noticing “failure, failure, failure” — then so be it. Repeating actions that led to failure was a form of insanity, she commented, citing Albert Einstein. Surveying the cycles of negotiation since Madrid, including those that had produced the Road Map, and the various deadlines along the way, she said that after all that activity, all that had resulted was increased usurpation of Palestinian land, housing and rights.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton’s recent statements, she said, only continued the same failed process, showing that Europe was tolerating a fundamental breach of the international standards it had developed after the Second World War. Europe had leverage through its trade policy, which required adherence to international law and human rights and was a major destination for Israeli exports. That fact could be used effectively. If Europe failed to use such leverage, she commented, it was, in effect, subsidizing the occupation, and the two-State solution was effectively “dead in the water”.

If it was dead, she said she agreed with Mr. Gordon that a democratic one-State solution must be looked at carefully. All was not hopeless, however, she said, citing the Arab Spring, the peaceful protest movement against the separation wall in the West Bank and growing international divestment campaigns and other protests against Israel’s practices. She insisted that recognition of a State of Palestine in the United Nations must be supported by all those who supported international law. If Europe and the United States blocked that initiative, justice would win out eventually. “History moves on, and it will move on in this region,” she said.

In response to questions from members of civil society organizations, Ms. Short said that she was not necessarily in favour of the two-State solution; she had supported it because the Palestinian Authority had agreed to pursue it after making historic compromises. Mr. Gordon said that it was just a fact that there was one State and that the situation was unlikely to change. Both agreed that the two-State solution was clearly in the interest of Israel, because it was the only one that would allow it to remain a Jewish State.

Replying to other questions, Mr. Aboughosh said he would not speculate on actions to be taken if the appeal for recognition of a State of Palestine in the United Nations failed in September. He said that it was a right to be able to take the issue to the United Nations, so that right would be exercised. Members of non-governmental organizations then called for mobilization of civil society to support an urgent resolution of the situation.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said that there was an intense debate among Palestinian leadership on steps to take to support the recognition bid, and added that one should not underestimate what Palestinians were prepared to do. He appreciated suggestions on one-State or two-State solutions, but the will of the people to end the occupation must be respected.

The United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process will continue in Brussels with its second plenary meeting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 June.

For information media • not an official record