02/09/2011

To recognize the Palestinian state

The Gymnich, or informal meeting of EU foreign ministers, held these 2nd and 3rd September in Sopot in Poland will devote most of his discussions on the current events in the Arab world, particularly regarding the Middle East peace process.

Coming back from a few days in the region, Ashton expressed the importance of a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This statement seems to shed a light on what will be the alignment of the EU on the U.S. position, and therefore on the Israeli position. The challenge for the coming weeks will indeed be the application for recognition of the Palestinian state that will be presented by the PLO to the United Nations on September 20. Influenced by their inextricable link to Israel, the United States have already announced they will veto the resolution, arguing that only a negotiated peace agreement could give birth to a Palestinian state.

The European foreign ministers have to decide tomorrow for their future what positions they will take at the United Nations in September. At the General Affairs and External Relations meeting on 23 May 2011, the twenty seven had in fact decided to communicate a unanimous position on the subject, to strengthen EU’s weight in international affairs.

Despite this, some member states – Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic – already announced they would oppose the recognition of Palestinian state. Rumors also claim that others, like Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, could for their part vote in favor of the initiative PA.

It seems almost inevitable therefore that no unanimous position will be found tomorrow. The EU will more than likely miss an opportunity to assert itself as an important player in the region and particularly in the peace process. Towards the Arab revolutions, and the questioning of its Mediterranean policy it attempts to wage in parallel, the EU could be at a turning point concerning its foreign policy. Unfortunately the interests and peculiarities of the Member States have once again decided otherwise.

Moreover, it is futile to think that without this recognition, negotiations will resume as before. The Oslo process is well and truly dead. The talks have in fact stopped when Israel ended the 10-month moratorium on settlement in the West Bank – the settlements in East Jerusalem have not discontinued during this period. The constant failure of negotiations is constantly utilized by Israel to impose facts on the ground. Faced with this “fait accompli” policy, to criticize the « unilateral » approach of the application for recognition of Palestine to the United Nations has something dangerously unbalanced.

And this especially since the right of Palestinians to their state has been recognized by the partition plan of the United Nations in 1947 and reconfirmed by the agreements reached in Oslo in 1993. International financial institutions also evaluated the Palestinian state to be now viable following the implementation of the state construction plan set up by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It is against all logic to oppose the will of the Palestinian people to exercise this legitimate right.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée