The role of Europe in advancing Palestinian statehood and achieving peace

between Israelis and Palestinians

Brussels, 28 and 29 June 2011

Executive summary

The viability of the two-State solution, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, the effectiveness of the Quartet’s Road Map in bringing about a just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict, the role of the European Union  in reaching that goal, Palestine’s readiness for statehood and recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly were the focus of the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, held in Brussels.  

While some panellists cast strong doubts on whether the two-State model would ever come into existence owing to the intransigence of Israel on settlements and other obstacles, other speakers avowed just as strongly that there was no alternative.  Most speakers stressed that time was running out for the two-State solution, underscoring that all was in place for it to become a reality.  Throughout the meeting, the participants looked at the viability of the two-State solution and the ongoing European strategies in support of it, recalling the 20 years of efforts by the international community and missed deadlines since the Madrid Conference of 1991.  The participants stressed that the process nevertheless produced principles that had come to be widely accepted, notably the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within mutually recognized borders.  The Meeting also underscored the importance of the active role of parliamentarians and civil society in promoting peace.

During the two days of deliberations, the participants noted the positive assessment of the Palestinian State-building achievements by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in April 2011, regretted the impasse in negotiations, and stressed the need to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law and build on the momentum of the so-called Arab spring.  Most speakers called upon the international community, and the European Union in particular, to be a driving force behind the implementation of the well-known parameters and human rights standards that the Union itself had initiated and promoted over the years.  They also called on the European Union and its member States to support the Palestinian request for membership in the United Nations during the General Assembly session in September 2011.

The Meeting concluded with the issuance of the concluding statement of the Organizers.

I.  Introduction

1. The United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process was held in Brussels on 28 and 29 June 2011, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee”) and in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolutions 65/13 and 65/14 of 30 November 2010.  The theme of the Meeting was “The role of Europe in advancing Palestinian statehood and achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians”.

2. The Committee was represented at the Meeting by a delegation comprising Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chair of the Committee; Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan); Pedro Núñez Mosquera (Cuba); Saviour F. Borg (Malta); and Riyad Mansour (Palestine).

3. The Meeting consisted of an opening session, three plenary sessions and a closing session.  The themes of the plenary sessions were:  Peace or process – taking stock of 20 years of European efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking”, “The urgency of realizing a two-State solution”, and “Supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace – raising the role of Europe”.

4. At the Meeting, presentations were made by 14 experts, including Palestinian and Israeli experts.  Representatives of 39 Governments, Palestine, six intergovernmental organizations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, five United Nations bodies, 25 civil society organizations, seven media outlets, and special guests and members of the public attended the Meeting.  

5. A concluding statement by the Organizers was introduced during the closing session of the Meeting (see annex I to the present report).

II.  Opening session

6. The Meeting opened with the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, delivered by his representative at the Meeting, Maxwell Gaylard, Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The Secretary-General expressed concern at the current lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and noted that less than three months remained until the September target date that had been set in 2010 for reaching an agreement on permanent status issues and for completing the Palestinian Authority’s two-year State-building programme.  He noted that the two-State solution was in the best interest of both parties, as it embodied their legitimate aspirations, and stressed that it was important to avoid steps which might damage trust.  Recalling that the speech, delivered by President Barack Obama of the United States of America on 19 May 2011, contained important ideas which could serve as the basis for a return to good faith negotiations, he stressed in particular the affirmation of key principles related to borders and security arrangements.  He appealed to the parties to return to negotiations without preconditions and without delay.  

7. The Secretary-General reminded the Meeting that the situation on the ground remained worrisome.  The continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was contrary to international law and Israel’s obligations under the Road Map and further undermined Palestinian confidence in direct negotiations.  It was vital that Israel respect international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said.  While acknowledging that the Palestinian State-building agenda had ensured institutional readiness for statehood in the West Bank, as confirmed by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in April, the Secretary-General regretted that the institutional achievements could not apply to East Jerusalem, much of Area C and the Gaza Strip.  Constraints on urban development and obstacles to free movement and access in the West Bank continued to impede Palestinian economic viability.  The Secretary-General called upon Israel to roll back all measures of occupation and allow economic and institutional progress to continue in order to assist their emerging Palestinian neighbour.  In the Gaza Strip, he said, further measures of liberalization were needed to solidify modest progress and empower those seeking continued calm, adding that the calm which had largely been observed for the past three months was extremely important and had to be maintained.  While welcoming the approval by Israel of a further $100 million of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) construction projects, he stressed the need for the free and secure movement of people, construction materials and other goods, and for the implementation of all aspects of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).

8. The Secretary-General assured the Meeting of his continued support to efforts at achieving Palestinian unity within the framework of the positions of the Quartet, the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Arab Peace Initiative, and appealed to donors to remain fully engaged.  Inadequate donor support for the budget of the Palestinian Authority would hamper Government operations and upset the State-building agenda, he said.  He concluded by exhorting the international community to do its part to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.  He stated that he would continue to do everything possible, as Secretary-General and as a member of the Quartet, to help the parties to achieve an end to the occupation that began in 1967, an end to the conflict, a resolution of all final status issues – including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security, and the emergence of a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel.   

9. Michel Goffin, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, expressed the satisfaction of his Government to be able to host the event, even more so as the Meeting focused on the role of Europe in advancing Palestinian statehood and achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  He noted that the year 2011 was decisive and presented an opportunity, as well as great challenges.  He said that every year since the Madrid Conference of 1991 had been one with opportunities, many of which had unfortunately been missed.  He stressed that since then, international donors had poured tens of billions of dollars into the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the European Union and its member States being among the largest donors, contributing about 1 billion euros on a yearly basis.  That support, he added, stemmed from the firm belief that a negotiated solution between Israel and Palestine would contribute decisively to economic growth and social well-being in the region.  

10. Among the challenges requiring the most urgent attention, Mr. Goffin first pointed to the socio-economic and political situation of the people in Gaza and reiterated the call by Belgium for the lifting of the blockade.  Together with its European Union partners, he said, Belgium had consistently called for the immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, as well as incoming and outgoing flows of persons and commercial goods.  Secondly, he expressed concern for the freedom of movement and the socio-economic development in the West Bank.  He said that despite the positive assessment by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the efforts by the Palestinian Authority to revive the Palestinian economy, the economic growth in the West Bank was probably still too donor-driven.  Moreover, the Palestinian economy should be able to use the available resources, including the possibility to develop in Area C.

11. Mr. Goffin expressed concern at the continuing expansion of the settlements, noting that they were illegal under international law and politically very objectionable, and made reaching any future peace deal ever more difficult.  Settlement activity, particularly in and around Jerusalem, was very worrying.  He stressed that unilateral measures would not bring about a solution and credible negotiations led in good faith remained the best way forward.

12. In the first address on behalf of the European Union in the opening session of a Meeting organized by the Committee, John Gatt-Rutter, Deputy European Union Representative to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said that for the European Union there was no more important issue than resolving the Middle East conflict, “the mother of all conflicts”.  The core of the European Union policy, he stated, was the creation of a Palestinian State and the resolution of the conflict.  This would lead to the ultimate reconciliation between the Arabs and the Jews, solve the sensitive issue of security, bring about good-neighbourly relations as well as justice for the Palestinians and security for Israelis.

13. Mr. Gatt-Rutter stressed that the European Union was very concerned about the stalemate in the peace process and the lack of dialogue between the parties.  As the world was witnessing the changes in the Arab region, it was even more important that the parties should resume genuine discussions, based on well-known terms of reference, as outlined by the Council of the European Union in December 2009 and 2010 and by President Obama in May 2011.

14. The European Union believed that the Quartet was the right body to steer the process and hoped that it would help bridge the gap between the parties.  However, the terms and timelines of Israeli withdrawal had to be negotiated, as unilateral solutions would not work.  Turning to internal Palestinian politics, Mr. Gatt-Ruter said that the European Union supported the reconciliation agreement and called for the swift formation of a unified government, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas.  Reconciliation among all Palestinians was advantageous for all and had the potential to improve security.  He said that the situation in Gaza remained of serious concern and the delivery of humanitarian assistance was necessary to avoid the escalation of violence, and expressed concern at recent disturbing developments in Jerusalem.  Mr. Gatt-Rutter concluded by reiterating the call, on behalf of the European Union, upon the parties to resume negotiations and avoid unilateral steps.

15. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, expressed, on behalf of the Committee, deep appreciation to the Government of Belgium for hosting the Meeting, as well as for having provided for a long time generous assistance to the Palestinians both politically and financially, in particular in the context of the multilateral mechanisms of the European Union.  By way of illustration, and without claiming to be exhaustive, he highlighted the financing of UNRWA projects; job creation, including for persons with disabilities; and the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp.

16. Mr. Diallo noted that, as the Israeli occupation entered its forty-fifth year, making it the longest military occupation in modern history, the Fayyad Plan, which aimed at establishing the institutional and infrastructural foundations for an independent State, was becoming a resounding success, as highlighted by the United Nations, IMF and the World Bank.  It was acknowledged that the Palestinians now had the capacity to govern themselves and ensure their security.  He paid tribute to Europe for the constant support provided for the Plan, adding that the same level of European support was anticipated for the Palestinian Authority National Development Plan 2011-2013.  In this context, he hoped that the participants at the next donors' meeting would show great generosity.  Similarly, the Committee hoped that the new Palestinian transitional Government would adhere to international principles when it had accomplished its main task of preparing to hold free and transparent elections next year.  He recalled that the political negotiations should remain the prerogative of the PLO under the leadership of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

17. Mr. Diallo said the efforts to establish the Palestinian State within the 1967 borders and the option of exchanging territories had to continue, referring to speech made by President Obama in May 2011.  The Committee fully subscribed to the parameters established by the European Union, which were submitted to the Security Council on 21 April 2011, Mr. Diallo said, appealing to the European Union, as a key member of the Quartet, to make its voice heard more clearly on the question of Palestine.  The Committee also joined the call by the European Union for an urgent resumption of direct negotiations leading to a comprehensive solution on all issues.  The negotiations should result in the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State that will live in peace and security, side by side with the State of Israel, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.  

18. In conclusion, Mr. Diallo encouraged the European countries which had not yet recognized Palestine and its 1967 borders to do so, reminding them that such recognition was already included in the Quartet road map and had been endorsed by all the parties concerned, including Israel.  He appealed to the European Union to make greater efforts to lay the foundation for a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East, noting that it had the historical legitimacy, the practical ability and the moral resources to succeed in this challenge.

19. Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg, spoke as the representative of Palestine.  Ms. Shahid agreed that the year 2011 presented another important opportunity for peace in the Middle East, and thanked the Committee for, once again, organizing a meeting in Brussels.  Bringing together the United Nations and the European Union on this issue was important, she said, as the United Nations was the only organization committed to finding a solution and capable of guaranteeing its outcome.  

20. Ms. Shahid said that the changes sweeping the Arab region were unprecedented and proved the desire of Arab civil society to be part of the world community, as they shared the same values, principles and faith in democracy as the countries in Europe, North America, Africa or Latin America.  She expressed the view that it was time that there was one yardstick for all, irrespective of colour, origin, and religion.

21. Recalling the past 20 years of negotiations, Ms. Shahid said that the Palestinians had not hesitated to knock at every door to advance the process through both multilateral and bilateral negotiations.  In the meantime, she said, the situation on the ground had become worse, with annexations, settlements, demolitions and poor living conditions for the refugees.  She stressed the need to face the reality, namely, that one party did not abide by its obligations under international law, and said that open-ended negotiations could not be tolerated any longer.

22. Ms. Shahid referred to the Palestinian State-building strategy, pursued during the past two years, which was praised by IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations.  The Palestinians had decided to seek the United Nations’ recognition of their State on the 1967 borders not as a unilateral move, or in place of negotiations, but because they had the right to do so.  The United Nations was the guarantor of the rights of peoples; the Committee was a perfect example of that, and the bid at the United Nations was a matter of principle.  They hoped, she added, that after Palestine’s recognition as a State, the United Nations would help them to pursue negotiations based on the parameters expressed by the European Union in December 2009 and 2010, and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Ms. Shahid thought that the right of the Palestinians to independence should be prioritized, and asked for international support in that regard.

23. The representative of Egypt, in his capacity as current Chair of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, reiterated the support of Egypt and the Movement for Palestine’s quest for statehood.  He underlined that the rights of the Palestinian people to freedom, independence and statehood were inalienable, and therefore, could not be subject to negotiation.  Egypt was fully committed to help to bring the current Palestinian efforts to a successful outcome and urged the European countries to show their support for their legitimate aspirations.  He also called upon the international community to work together to solidify Palestine’s internal reconciliation process, as a prerequisite for peace.

24. The representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation noted that the Meeting was taking place at a critical time when the peace process was stalled, as Israeli practices had obstructed the political progress.  He recalled the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the 57 member States of the Organization, based on several international resolutions and instruments.  The Organization, he said, supported the Palestinian efforts for their State to gain the membership in the United Nations.  The Organization did not see that bid as a unilateral move, but, on the contrary, as a way of bringing back the issue under the umbrella of multilateralism.  The Organization urged all peace-loving nations to join in supporting that cause.

25. The representative of China, noting that her country had already recognized Palestine, reiterated the support of her Government for the fulfilment of the legitimate right of the Palestinians to a sovereign and independent State, and pledged its cooperation with Europe and the rest of the international community to assist the political and diplomatic process towards the resolution of the question of Palestine.

III.  Plenary sessions

A.  Plenary I

Peace or process – taking stock of 20 years of European efforts

to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking

26. The speakers in Plenary I addressed the following sub-themes:  “From Madrid to Oslo:  laying the foundation for direct negotiations”, “Creating a framework for a permanent settlement of the conflict”, “The Arab Peace Initiative”, and “The Quartet and its road map”.

27. Véronique De Keyser, Member of the European Parliament, pointed to a range of different positions in Europe on the peace process – those of the European Council, the European Commission and the Parliament, and stressed that “Europe speaking with one voice” did not exist.  A few points represented the basis of the European stand on the issue, she said:  unconditional alliance with the United States; the refusal to recognize Hamas as a legitimate partner; and the refusal to impose sanctions to curb settlement expansion and other illegal practices.  At the other end of the European policy lay the firm legalistic belief in the United Nations resolutions.  It was agreed, however, that peace negotiations and the realization of a Palestinian State were crucial.  In her group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, it was thought that those two developments must progress in synergy.  The group also called for dialogue with moderate elements of Hamas.  She noted that the European Parliament had passed resolutions endorsing the Goldstone report and condemning the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010, but consensus in those areas had been too fragile for the Council to take action.  She observed that a new momentum could be sensed now owing to two major developments:  the Arab spring and the Fayyad Plan, and asserted that the European Union supported the democratic aspirations in the region, which posed a real crise de conscience for Europe as it did not wish to create double standards.  She furthermore said that the European Union supported politically and financially the institution-building process that came to a positive outcome, and was in favour of the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas.

28. Ms. De Keyser noted that, while pushing for peace negotiations, the European Union was also in favour of a Palestinian State.  She recalled that in February 2011, Germany, the United Kingdom and France had declared that peace and a Palestinian State were linked.  Europe stood in defence of the security and long-lasting existence of the State of Israel while believing there was a need to grant the same to the Palestinian people.  In her opinion, the recognition of the right to have a State was a non-violent way of giving, if not peace, at least hope to a population that had endured long-term occupation.  In that context, she hoped that Europe would speak with its own voice and would not give up its belief in equality and the rule of law and democracy, thereby avoiding double standards.

29. Neve Gordon, Professor at the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, began his intervention by saying that the source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be summed up in one short phrase:  one land, two people.  Accordingly, this conflict could be resolved in one of the two ways:  either the two people share one land, or the land will be divided between the two people.  Mr. Gordon was doubtful that the two-State solution was viable at all, given Israeli policies over the past 20 years, which he said pointed in reality to the one-State solution.  In his thinking, there were two possible models of the one-State solution, with the first one being similar to the current situation, which was, in his view, an apartheid situation that could not be sustained over time.

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

31. Mr. Gordon acknowledged that there was international consensus on the fact that the two people should divide the land, and recalled that several United Nations resolutions – mainly Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) – had recommended partition.  Moreover, the two-State solution has also been the vision informing all diplomatic negotiations in the past two decades.  The current difficulty, however, was that while Israel was unwilling to accept the basic tenets underlying any of these key issues, the Palestinians, in turn, had decided not to wait any longer and were asking the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders.  Their argument, commented Mr. Gordon, was straightforward:  if the idea was the division of land between the two people, how could Israel continue settling the contested land while carrying out negotiations?

32. Professor Gordon then focused on the specific issue of the settlement growth, illustrating his statements with data and graphs.  He said that on 30 October 1991, when Israelis and Palestinians met for the first time to negotiate peace at the Madrid Conference, there were 132,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and 89,800 settlers in the West Bank.  Twenty years later, the number of settlers in East Jerusalem had increased by about 40 per cent, while the settlers in the West Bank had multiplied by over 300 per cent.  The data indicated, he explained, that the major increase in population over the years was not due to natural growth, but was rather a result of the migration of Jews from Israel to the West Bank.  The growth, he noted, was constant and did not fluctuate according to the intensity of peace negotiations, violent conflict and the composition of the Israeli Government.  Moreover, he added, the population growth was uneven in terms of characteristics as, in fact, of the 300,000 settlers currently living in the West Bank, almost 100,000 were ultra-orthodox Jews.  He pointed to two crucial issues clarifying the reasons for the trend:  the low socio-economic status of that community and their high birth rate.  

33. Turning to the political landscape, Mr. Gordon noted that different Israeli Governments had over the years had a similar settlement policy, regardless of which political party was in power.  He concluded that while for about two thirds of the past 20 years Israelis and Palestinians had been in some kind of negotiation process based on land for peace, Israel had been simultaneously implementing policies that undercut such a deal, and opined 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.  If the bid for United Nations recognition failed, then a paradigm shift toward a one-State solution might very well take place, he concluded.  

34. Abdelaziz Aboughosh, Ambassador of Palestine to Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, speaking on the Arab Peace Initiative, noted that the Initiative laid the substantive foundation for the two-State solution, which had been confirmed by the Arab League summits and widely supported in the international community.  He recalled that the Initiative called for a full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since June 1967 under the land-for-peace principle and the acceptance by Israel of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital in return for Israel being recognized by 57 Arab and Muslim countries, along with full, normal diplomatic relations.

35. Mr. Aboughosh then outlined the history of the Arab Peace Initiative.  He recalled that the PLO had made a historic compromise in 1988 by relinquishing its claim to all historic Palestine and accepting the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital on only 22 per cent of its homeland.  The PLO recognized Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which acknowledged the right of Israel to exist, and accepted Israel on the remaining 78 per cent of historic Palestine.  In 1993, the PLO took further steps, deciding to engage in direct negotiations with Israel.  In pursuing the path of negotiations, the PLO sought to realize the Palestinian national rights of self-determination and statehood.  The PLO, he stressed, envisioned a wider Middle East peace that would also end the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries.

36. Mr. Aboughosh recalled that the Arab Peace Initiative had been adopted on 28 March 2002 at the Arab League Summit in Beirut, and was later reaffirmed by the Arab summits in Riyadh in March 2007 and in Damascus in March 2008.  The Initiative received the backing of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the meeting of foreign ministers in Khartoum in June 2002.  The Arab Peace Initiative had received the support of many leaders throughout the world and international organizations such as the African Union and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries that urged the Security Council to act upon the Initiative.  It was also endorsed by the Quartet on 30 April 2003.  Unfortunately, concluded Mr. Aboughosh, Israel was still ignoring the Initiative, hence rejecting the possibility of being recognized by 57 Arab and Muslim countries to establish full diplomatic and normal relations with them, in return for ending the occupation and achieving a comprehensive peace agreement.

37. In another dismal assessment of the prospects for a two-State solution, Clare Short, former Member of the British Parliament, said that it was necessary to acknowledge the failure while taking stock of European support for peacemaking efforts in the Middle East.  Doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome was a form of insanity, she commented, citing Albert Einstein.  For that reason, it seemed to her, the policy of the Europeans, the Americans and the international community on the Middle East over the past 20 years amounted to insanity.  Surveying the cycles of negotiation since Madrid in 1989, Oslo in 1993, the road map and the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, she wondered if all the parties were genuinely looking for a solution or were just comfortable with having a process.  In fact, after all that activity, not only there was no solution in sight, but the situation on the ground had become worse, with increased settlements, closures, demolitions, the siege in the Gaza Strip and human rights abuses.  The international community was taken for a ride while Israel was annexing more territory, making the two-State solution de facto impossible.  The situation in the West Bank was worse than in the apartheid South Africa, she said, citing Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Despite that, she lamented, the European Union still professed, through recent statements by its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, its support for the two-State solution.  Moreover, she said, the European Union was tolerating fundamental breaches of international law and human rights standards which were also part of the European Union-Israel Trade Agreement, and was not making use of its leverage as a major destination for Israeli exports to uphold the standards it professed.  In so doing, she commented, the European Union was, in effect, subsidizing the occupation.  That policy was tragic and disgraceful and the two-State solution was effectively dead in the water.  

38. Ms. Short agreed with Mr. Gordon that a democratic one-State solution could become the only solution.  All was not hopeless, however, she said, citing the Arab spring, the peaceful protest movement against the West Bank barrier and the growing international divestment campaigns and other protests against Israeli practices.  She insisted that the recognition of Palestine in the United Nations must be supported by all those who support international law.  If Europe and the United States block that initiative, justice will prevail eventually.  History moved on, and it would also move on in this region, as it did in South Africa, she concluded.

39. In the ensuing discussion, Ms. De Keyser, answering the question on whether the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament would have a unified position on the question of Palestinian statehood, confirmed that the group had a common position on the right of the Palestinians to have a State.  However, she added, the European Union had passed many resolutions supporting it “in due time” and that was where the problems lay.  Questioned about which European States would support the United Nations bid, she said it was difficult to say at that time, as positions were still evolving, but she hoped that in September, Europe would be in a position to take a positive stance.  Finally, on the question of economic conditionality vis-à-vis Israel and the European Union-Israel Association Agreement, she clarified that since operation “Cast Lead”, the European Parliament had frozen the issue until it saw improvements in respect of Israeli illegal practices and human rights.

40. 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 in effect, 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.

41. Replying to other questions, Mr. Aboughosh would not speculate on actions to be taken if the appeal for recognition of Palestine by the United Nations failed in September.  He said that the Palestinians were free to exercise their right to take the issue to the United Nations.  Members of civil society organizations called for the mobilization of civil society to support an urgent resolution of the situation.  

42. Mr. Mansour said that there was an intense debate within the Palestinian leadership on the steps to be taken to support the recognition bid, and stated that one should not underestimate what Palestinians were prepared to do in terms of civic uprising.  Should the Palestinians take to the streets peacefully as did the people in Egypt and Tunisia, he wondered who could deny their request for the end of the occupation.  He appreciated the suggestions on the one-State versus two-State solutions, stressing that the will of the people to end the occupation must be respected.

43. Responding to a question on the weakening of the peace camp in Israel, Mr. Gordon acknowledged the fact, saying that it saddened him that it had dwindled and had no impact on the decisions of the Government of Israel.  For this reason, he thought that its weakening put a greater responsibility on the international community to put pressure on Israel, and called for conditionality to be imposed on Israel.  He also agreed with the calls for the mobilization of the global civil society and urged the Palestinian leadership to help build up a campaign against the veto of the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations Security Council.

B.  Plenary II

The urgency of realizing a two-State solution

44. The speakers in Plenary II addressed the following sub-themes:  “Current efforts at resuming direct negotiations for a permanent settlement”, “Palestinian readiness for statehood”, “International recognition of the State of Palestine – the position of the European Union and its Members”, and “Alternatives to the negotiating process:  achieving a two-State solution through multilateral mechanisms, including the United Nations”.

45. Maxwell Gaylard, Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory opened the session on the urgency of achieving the two-State solution, stating that in the United Nations family, there was no official debate on anything apart from the two-State solution.

46. Achievement of the two-State solution was urgent, Mr. Gaylard said, because of the development challenges presented by the separation wall alone.  He described the frustration of the Palestinians travelling all day to get from Nablus to Hebron to sell their goods, and the obstacles faced by the farmers whose land was divided by the wall.  “You see blockages to development wherever you look”, he noted.  In the Gaza Strip, people simply could not move and 70 per cent of them were still recipients of United Nations assistance, he said.  In East Jerusalem, the 270,000 Palestinian residents were living on 13 per cent of the land, he added.  He said his office encouraged Palestinian unification and the lifting of restrictions on Gaza, so that reconstruction could occur.

47. Mr. Gaylard asserted that the Palestinians were perfectly capable of taking care of their own needs, as recognized by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee at its meeting in April 2011.  However, in the absence of a political solution, the assistance to the Palestinians by some 25 entities of the United Nations based in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory was crucial. It was also necessary for donors to remain generous, working directly with both the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.  The reforms of the Authority had made it a more efficient partner and the needs for aid had even dropped in some areas.  He said that a joint trust fund had also been set up to support the Authority through a United Nations mechanism, and urged the donors to continue to support the efforts of the Authority.

48. Mr. Gaylard said that the humanitarian appeal issued each year should not be necessary – the United Nations country team, he said, had been seeking to operate as “One United Nations” in assisting the Palestinians in State-building, working at every level from leadership to civil society, and in every sector from water and sanitation to governance.  The Palestinians were ready for statehood; the siege of Gaza, the occupation and the settlements were seen as the major obstacles.  Regardless of what happened in September, the State-building process would continue, he noted.

49. Sahar Qawasmi, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, began her remarks by stating that we were living now in a historical era equivalent to the industrial revolution in Europe.  She noted that people were gathering in peaceful ways to oppose violations of human rights and international law, predicting that these mass demonstrations would spread all over the world.  For those reasons, she asserted, the dimensions and the repercussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were no longer limited to the two peoples, but exceeded the regional dimensions, impacting the international sphere.  She recalled that 20 years had passed since the Madrid Conference, and referred to the historic concession by the Palestinians when they accepted a State on only 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

50. Ms. Qawasmi then presented the audience with some historical maps describing the evolution of the occupied territory and the corresponding demographic growth.  The State of Israel, she explained, had a population of approximately 7,746,000 inhabitants as of May 2011.  Some 75.4 per cent of them were Jewish (about 5,795,000 individuals) and 20.4 per cent were Arabs (about 1,571,000 individuals).  However, the trends showed that the number of Palestinians in historic Palestine would surpass the number of Jews over time, and by the end of 2020, the Jewish population would be about 48.2 per cent of the total population, with 6.7 million Jews against 7.2 million Palestinians.  Based on those facts, Ms. Qawasmi continued, it was now a historic juncture, and if the international community could not make the two-State solution a reality now, that solution would come to an end.  

51. On the ground, Ms. Qawasmi said, all were witnessing more victims, more confiscation of Palestinian land, the construction of the wall, the penetration of the settlements, the spread of fundamentalism, extremism and racism, and gross violations of human rights.  In her view, Israel lacked a real and serious desire to reach the two-State solution, as it was creating facts on the ground that were leading the political process to a dead end.  At the same time, the Palestinian Authority continued to strengthen its institutions, deliver public services and promote the reforms, as established by IMF in its report of 13 April 2011, in which it acknowledged the solid track record of the Palestinian Authority in reforms and institution-building in the public finance and financial areas.  Hence, the Palestinians had met all the prerequisites for statehood listed in the Montevideo Convention, the 1933 treaty that set out the rights and duties of States, Ms. Qawasmi declared.

52. Under those conditions, alternatives to the stuck negotiations must be considered, she said.  The first alternative included the call for the Security Council to ratify and recognize the declaration of independence of the State of Palestine within the borders of June 1967, with its capital in East Jerusalem; the call for the General Assembly to recognize the State of Palestine as a full Member of the United Nations; and the call upon the Secretary-General to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people during the withdrawal period, not to exceed one year.  Another route, she said, involved the recognition of the State by the General Assembly under its resolution 377 A (V), entitled “Uniting for Peace”, or requesting the United Nations to fully implement General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which not only mandated the membership of Israel in the Organization but also the establishment of a Palestinian State.

53. Nawaf Salam, Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, stressed that he was speaking in his personal capacity.  Clarifying issues connected with the recognition of the Palestinian State, Mr. Salam said, first of all, that there was no alternative to the negotiations. Although the negotiation process had been dormant for a long time, and even if the recognition of the State was achieved through multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations, the negotiation process was still needed on the final status issues.  He then addressed a few points of contention around the debate of statehood.  First, he stated, the achievement of the two-State solution and the negotiation process were not contradictory but rather complementary actions, as stipulated in Security Council resolution 1850 (2008) and the road map.  Secondly, the recognition of statehood was a bilateral matter, and international organizations did not recognize States; they could only grant membership, based on such recognition by Member States.  Thirdly, he said that Palestinian statehood did not violate previous agreements because it was based on General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which had been called the “birth certificate” of the State of Israel; hence, it could also be seen as the birth certificate of the Palestinian State.  It was also rooted in the right of self-determination that preceded any Israeli-Palestinian agreements.  In addition, following the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians had been encouraged to build their State, the road map spoke of achieving statehood and other resolutions spoke of the need to fulfil the requirement for statehood.

54. Mr. Salam stressed that the right to self-determination was an inalienable right, and hence, non-negotiable.  In exercising that right, the Palestinians could decide to establish a State on their territory, merge with Jordan or Israel, or even form two States, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza.  What was open for negotiations were the final status issues:  borders, security, Jerusalem, the right of return and the sharing of the water.  To exercise the right to self-determination, he added, Palestine had to meet all the requirements for statehood, outlined in the Montevideo Convention:  a permanent population, a defined territory and the capacity for self-governance.  The status of Palestinians as a people was recognized by the United Nations, even if the borders were not defined and were susceptible to modification, as was the case for many other countries.  In conclusion, he stated that the Palestinian Authority had been certified as ready to govern by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in April 2011.  The last important distinction Mr. Salam pointed out was between statehood and independence.  Palestine fulfilled the requirements of a State, but its independence was hindered by the Israeli occupation, he noted.  

55. In conclusion, Mr. Salam said that it was difficult to understand how the recognition of the Palestinian State, or its membership in the United Nations, could be seen as a de-legitimization of Israel, as claimed by President Obama.  In fact, it would legitimize Israel, he maintained; this action only delegitimized the occupation.  It would certainly change the nature of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, as the issue would then be one of a State seeking independence from occupation.  Of course, he admitted, statehood would not by itself change the situation on the ground.  A meaningful negotiation would still be required and should be associated with the following two elements:  a serious time frame and the redefinition of the role of the third party in a way that it could hold the parties accountable, which had not been the case under any previous framework.

56. Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg, stressed that “urgency” was the most important term in the discussion, not only because the Palestinians were tired of the occupation, but because of the “earthquake” in the region, which represented a revolution, accompanied by changes in the international climate.  She confessed to being amused by the encouragement of the European States for the Arab revolutions when they previously supported the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, for economic or security reasons.  Therefore, she stated, it was time the international community showed the political courage to make an earnest diagnosis of 40 years of failed negotiations.

57. It had taken 40 years for the Palestinians to be accepted as a nation, she said, and to now have to fight another 40 years for the recognition of statehood, it would be shameful.  Political courage was needed; it was not solely a legal matter.  She wondered whether the Palestinian, Arab and other peoples and Governments possessed that courage after 20 years of negotiations.  So far, they had totally failed in getting the occupying Power to respect the agreements of the past 64 years.  At the insistence of the international community and in view of ending the occupation, the Palestinians had recognized Israel in 1988, and yet the situation had only gotten worse.  She pointed out that the international community, as well as the parties, were all accountable for the failure.  Wondering why other very complex crises, for instance the ones in the Balkans, had been solved while the Israeli-Palestine conflict remained open, she pointed to some aspects specific to this conflict.

58. Ms. Shahid said that the question of Palestine was at the heart of the problems of the international and regional mechanisms.  The legitimacy of the Arab rulers was linked to this question and no one in the Arab region could afford to remain neutral.  The United States could not act because of domestic politics, while the European Union saw the issue as a threat to its internal unity, she said.  However, for the European Union, this should be a question of honour, as it was in the Venice Declaration of 1980, where the right to self-determination for the Palestinians was upheld.  The issue was not merely self-determination; it was self-dignity.   Moreover, the European Union had been supporting State-building efforts for the past 30 years.  She wondered what good it was to train customs officers without a State.  

59. Ms. Shahid continued by saying that the position of the European Union was clear and had been restated many times; however, the Union must have the courage to promote it.  The initiative of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, was appreciated, but the parameters she discussed must have accountability attached, if one yardstick was to be used for all.  Political courage must be exercised, as European history was linked to the history of this conflict.  Civil society in Palestine and in Europe was ready for the State of Palestine, but a common strategy was needed to move the discourse further.  Ms. Shahid reiterated the readiness of the Palestinians to negotiate, despite all the disappointments and missed deadlines, as long as it was not in the same way negotiations had been conducted for the past 40 years.  The two-State solution was the only viable way to go and all the parties bore a great responsibility in that regard, she concluded.

60. In the ensuing discussion, Ms. Shahid, responding to the questions from the civil society representatives, said that there were no alternatives to the two-State solution.  It would take another hundred years, most Palestinians felt, for a one-State model to be viable, since the Israelis now did not even want to live next to them or with them, she opined.  On the question of reconciliation, she said that Palestinians could not afford political fragmentation, because they were already dispersed.  Unity was very important for the Palestinian people; however, the building of the separation wall had fragmented the fabric of the Palestinian society.  The drive for statehood had served to restore unity as well, adding to the sense of urgency for bringing about the two-State solution.  

61. Replying to other questions from civil society representatives, Ms. Shahid expressed the appreciation for the attendance of most member States and non-governmental organizations at the meeting and stated that she saw them as partners working on the same principles.  She acknowledged the problems of the European Union with respect to mobilizing, pointing to the cumbersome procedures that comprised the mechanisms of the Union for gaining consensus from 27 States.  For that reason, pressure from civil society was necessary and effective.  However, civil society needed to be cohesive and strategic, especially in view of the developments that were to unfold in September.  Stating that Israel was in violation of all human rights in East Jerusalem, she called for the greater involvement of civil society, including Israeli, to help bring about European political action.  She stressed that the physical facts on the ground were reversible, if there was the political courage to do it.  Mr. Gaylard agreed that there was no lack of information on the effects of the occupation, but the political will to act on it was missing.

62. Mr. Mansour highlighted that the unification of the Palestinian homeland in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the creation of the PLO as the only legitimate representative of all Palestinians were two historic accomplishments of the last 60 years.  Unfortunately, this territorial unity was being threatened by the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while political unity was being threatened by the split between the PLO and Hamas.  He called upon the Palestinian people to preserve the unity of their representation and of their land.

C.  Plenary III

Supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace –

raising the role of Europe

63. The speakers in Plenary III addressed the following sub-themes:  “Political initiatives by the European Union and its members”, “The parameters for a negotiated two-State settlement endorsed by the European Union”, and “The role of parliamentarians and civil society”.

64. Proinsias de Rossa, Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, explained that the Delegation was a subgroup of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, similar to other delegations keeping relations with non-European Union parliaments, including the Knesset.  The role of the delegations was to represent the policies of the European Parliament and meet with a wide gamut of actors, regardless of their affiliation.  The way that Mr. de Rossa saw his role as the President of the Delegation, he said, was to bridge the existing information gap to overcome preconceived ideas and conflictual positions among the 750 members of the European Parliament, in the interest of peace.  As an Irishman involved in negotiations in his country, he said that he would offer some lessons learned from his own experience.

65. Turning to the demand by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, for acceptance of Israel as a Jewish State, Mr. de Rossa stressed the need for non-conditionality in the sphere of mutual recognition.  He also emphasized the danger that such a nature of the State could disenfranchise its Muslim citizens, as was already the case with Israeli Palestinians and the 82,000 Bedouins in the Negev desert.  The Jews should be allowed to live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, but could not expect to raise their flag there.  Comparing this situation to Northern Ireland, he said that Israel could not expect to have a Jewish State from Jordan to the Mediterranean without conceding equal rights to non-Jewish citizens, lest it be torn apart by violence, as was the case in Northern Ireland, where the attempt to build a protestant State for protestant people led to 30 years of chronic instability and the loss of 3,000 people’s lives in a bloody conflict.  He then recalled how the Belfast Agreement of April 1998 had implemented the arrangements on the table since 1973, and currently, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party shared power.

66. Turning to the European Union, he said that for it to be credible, it must align its positions with its actions and be consistent on human rights and governance principles.  It should not, he warned, repeat the same mistakes it had made when it boycotted the Palestinian Governments that included Hamas.  Regarding the demand by Israel that Hamas change its charter and accept Israel’s sovereignty over parts of historic Palestine, he recalled that in Northern Ireland, neither the Irish Republican Army nor Sinn Fein had ever accepted the United Kingdom’s sovereignty in Northern Ireland.  However, they remained committed to achieving a unified Ireland, by force of argument, not by force of arms.  That was the critical issue vis-à-vis Hamas, he noted.  Likewise, he opined, if Hamas agreed to a permanent ceasefire, talks could begin, in exchange for recognizing its democratic mandate.  That was the basis for Sinn Fein entering negotiations, he explained.  In his view, talking with Hamas should be one of the priorities of the Quartet for future negotiations.  In his role in the European Parliament, he said, he would continue to put pressure collectively and on national parliaments, including on the issue of trade agreements with Israel.  The European Union had flagrantly ignored the clauses on the respect for human rights in those agreements.  He said that conceding 78 per cent of historic Palestine was an enormous concession on the part of the PLO, and in exchange, it was asking the United Nations to recognize the right of self-determination and dignity of the Palestinian people.  The European Union should therefore use every tool it had to persuade Israel to negotiate within the parameters that the international community had agreed upon, and it must do so with urgency and resolve, he concluded.

67. Majed Bamya from the General Delegation of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg, said that the Arab spring had shown that the wheels of history were in motion and when that happened, there were two choices:  either to get into the vehicle or try to block its path.  The Palestinians could not be left out of the region’s movement for democracy.  The right to self-determination, the aspiration to freedom, dignity and justice had a particular echo for all the Palestinians as this was the core of their own struggle for the last decades, he noted.  The European Union had recognized the linkage of the changes in the region with the Palestinian aspirations for freedom, although they also linked Israel’s need for security with the same historic developments.  He stated that it was necessary to stop conditioning freedom by security or stability, adding that freedom was a self-sufficient purpose.

68. The position of the European Council outlined in 2010 reiterated the same parameters elucidated three decades before in the Venice Declaration, continued Mr. Bamya, regretting that Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech in the United States Congress in May 2011, had  rejected them with four “no’s”.  Therefore, he declared, bilateral negotiations could not be the answer, and he pointed to the need to acknowledge that a bilateral process leaving the occupier and the occupied face to face was a unilateral process.  He asked how, then, the parameters could be implemented in a process that yielded peace, and opined that Europe had yet to use its leverage by boycotting Israeli goods produced in the settlements.

69. Mr. Bamya noted that the Palestinians had shown that they were able to govern themselves, as acknowledged by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 13 April 2011; they abided by ceasefires and provided a unified party for negotiation.  Meeting all those criteria, however, had not yet gained them their freedom.  Over a decade ago, Europe declared itself ready to recognize a Palestinian State when appropriate, nevertheless, apparently the time was not appropriate yet, even after all the progress the Palestinians had made.  Mr. Bamya noted that the Palestinians had been under the wheels of history for a long time.  The support of the multilateral arenas was therefore needed to move things forward, by inviting States to recognize Palestine.  He concluded by saying that the Palestinians would move forward the wheels of history, expressing the hope that the European Union would be on the right side of history, too.

70. Christian Jouret, Middle East Adviser of the European External Action Service began his intervention by saying that the paradox of the Middle East conflict was that the solutions had been on the table for a very long time.  For the European Union, Jerusalem must be the capital of two States, along the lines of the 1967 borders; the Israeli occupation is illegal; and peace must be regional, addressing also the conflict between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic.  He agreed with other speakers that the Arab spring would have repercussions, albeit unknown for now, on the relations between Israel and the Arab countries, as well as among Arab countries themselves.  He stressed that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had to remain a priority for the European Union, and reiterated that for the European Union, negotiations were the way to achieve a solution.

71. The European Union had always contributed to seeking solutions, he said, and many times was at the forefront of the progress.  He recalled that the European Union had been the major force behind not only the Venice Declaration, but also the reference to the 1967 borders, the principle of land for peace, the road map, the right to self-determination for the Palestinians and the right to security for Israel.  These principles that were today part of the acquis diplomatique international, he noted, were very old concepts for the European Union.  He was glad that President Obama, in his speech in May 2011, had agreed with many of those parameters, which, he said, represented a breakthrough for United States diplomacy.

72. Mr. Jouret said the European Union’s foreign policy on the Middle East centred around three axes:  creating a framework for negotiations; managing crises; and proposing long-term solutions.  On the first point, he noted, the European Union supported agreed solutions in the framework of direct negotiations with a time frame, and on the basis of Security Council resolutions and previous agreements.  He emphasized that the European Union did not support any form of unilateral action by the parties, such as the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza or Lebanon, or unilateral ceasefire by Hamas.  Unilateral initiatives, albeit positive, he opined, were not long-lasting.  He also urged the international community to take up its responsibilities in accompanying the parties in negotiations and verify the implementation of agreements.  Regarding the second axis, the European Union, through its European policy on security and defence, was taking an approach similar to that of United Nations peacebuilding, which encompasses development, security and human rights, he explained.  The European Union, he added, in the aftermath of the signing of a peace agreement, was prepared to support post-conflict peacekeeping and peacebuilding arrangements.  Finally, regarding long-term solutions, Mr. Jouret reiterated the commitment of the European Union to multilateralism and negotiations.   In that context, he recalled that the European Union had supported the right of self-determination of the Palestinians since the Berlin Declaration of 1999, and supported the findings of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in April 2011.

73. Mr. Jouret concluded by saying that the resumption of negotiations was an urgent necessity, but while the international community must be there to support the parties, they still owed the process, as an imposed peace could not work.

74. Simon Petermann, Honorary Professor at the University of Liège in Belgium, in his remarks expressed a critical albeit hopeful view of the role of the European Union in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  He quoted the French writer Régis Debray, who in his book To an Israeli Friend portrays the role of Europe as a spectator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Similarly, he said, Leila Shahid, the General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, had expressed the same idea when she called upon the European Union in November 2010 to take on some of the responsibility, along with President Obama, and demonstrate more serious involvement.  While supporting the process in principle, the European Union, he regretted, split and adopted laconic and uncommitted positions on specific situations.  While the 27 members now were in agreement on the principle of the establishment of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, he thought there was a great risk that the member States would find themselves split when it comes to taking a concrete position during the General Assembly in September.  In his view, despite the attempts by France to hold a conference of the main actors before September, the chances for giving meaningful impetus to the peace process were slight.  He also feared that if the General Assembly adopted a resolution in September, that would likely result in an upheaval with unpredictable consequences.

75. Against that background, Mr. Petermann wondered what form the European Union involvement could take.  In his view, if the European Union continued to play the mere role of peace banker, that is, a role limited to financial activity, to the detriment of a more explicit political statement, then it would be desirable for it to promote some concrete projects designed to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and build a fully sovereign Palestinian State, enjoying all of the attributes and symbols of full and complete sovereignty.  He recalled that there were two European missions on the ground – the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories and the European Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point – which, he said, should be bolstered so that the European presence in the future Palestinian State was truly strong.  European (or United Nations) troops should also be deployed along the new borders.  Mr. Petermann also recalled the Temporary International Mechanism providing people in the Gaza Strip the access to water, health care and sanitary facilities, and stressed that the European Union had since February 2008 transferred some 799 million euros to the Palestinian Authority and therefore was being its principal donor.

76. Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, said in regard to the theme of the Meeting that he was not sure what “Europe” was; in addition, it appeared that peace had been abducted by process in the Middle East.  For that reason, he said, he “loved” the move of the Palestinian Authority towards the recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations as he felt that the days of the two-State solution were numbered.  Unfortunately, Israeli society had been hijacked by an extremist, fundamentalist dream of “greater Israel” and few people really knew what the two-State solution meant, he lamented.  In contrast, for the first time in years, the Palestinians had changed their strategy to a non-violent policy and had moved from the vocabulary of the occupied to the lexicon of independence.  This represented a very interesting new beginning, and a very frightening moment of truth for the Israelis.  He wondered if the Israelis were ready to give up the fear syndrome, the trauma rhetoric, and the settlements, commenting that for the first time in 40 years, the Israeli leadership was short of words because the discourse was changing.

77. In general, no one knew where the Middle East and North Africa were heading in this new era, he said, citing the demonstrations in Egypt and on Israel’s borders, which he called “a new music”.  Unfortunately, the Israelis were still deaf to that music, not noticing the changes that were happening in the region that were both frightening and promising.  The Israeli Government  saw the Palestinian quest for the recognition of their statehood as a move to delegitimize Israel, even when, on the contrary,  it legitimized Israel’s pre-1967 borders, which previously had never been accepted by the world, as well as West Jerusalem as its capital.  

78. Mr. Burg expressed the hope that September would be just the beginning of a process and not an end in itself.  The European Union had three important roles to play in this process after September, he said.  First, the European partners should undertake the responsibility of building a bridge of reconciliation between those affected by the traumas that originated in Europe during the Second World War.  Al-Naqba for both Israeli and Palestinians, he said, happened in 1945, not in 1948, and the competition of traumas should be replaced by reconciliation and the recognition of the trauma of the other side.  Secondly, the European Union should, through its funding, promote the cooperation of the civil society in Israel and Palestine that shares the same values of peace and human rights.  Finally, he urged the European Union to find the courage to speak frankly to the United States, go beyond the rhetoric and finally implement the proposed solutions to the conflict.  The European Union could not tolerate for much longer undemocratic and conflicting neighbours on the other shore of the Mediterranean and should seize this new opportunity, not just for historical reasons, but in the interest of a new beginning, in the interest of peace.

79. Pierre Galand, Chairman of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, expressed criticism of the European Union’s policies, which he said were in total contradiction with the stated values and principles of the Union.  He noted that when Europe and the United States united in imposing the sanctions against the apartheid South Africa, it showed what could happen when the struggle of a people was supported by the international community.  He recalled that the European Union had stated its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1980 in the Venice Declaration, the position reiterated innumerable times up to the well-known parameters expressed in the European Union Council conclusions of December 2010.  The European Union take on the situation in the Gaza Strip was equally clear, he added, lamenting that it was not coherent in its actions and practiced with Israel the policy of “two carrots” rather than that of the “stick and carrot”.  He regretted that all the diplomatic efforts had so far been in vain, and noted that all the successive Israeli governments had pursued the same policy of occupation.  As far as the separation wall was concerned, he said, the International Court of Justice had declared it illegal on 9 July 2004.  Finally, the blockade of the Gaza Strip was illegal under international humanitarian law and in violation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  Despite all that, he stated, Israel enjoyed a privileged relationship with the European Union, being a close partner in trade, research and security.  It was only the European Union Parliament that in 2009, after operation “Cast Lead” and later in 2010, put some restrictions on the relations between the European Union and Israel, he said.

80. Mr. Galand regretted that those initiatives did not bring about the necessary change.  Europe, following the Arab spring, needed to refocus its Mediterranean policy on democracy and human rights rather than only on economy and development.  For those reasons, civil society took some bold initiatives, such as the creation of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which was scheduled to hold its third session in South Africa in November 2011.  He also referred to some other initiatives by civil society, such as the “boycott” and “Welcome to Palestine” campaigns, as well as the Gaza flotilla, noting that the European coordination mechanism created in 1986 had been instrumental in mobilizing many of the campaigns.  He stressed that Europe was guilty of complicity with the worst Israeli policies, which were in total contradiction with the core values of the European Union.  He called on the European Union to change its failing 30-year strategy and impose sanctions on Israel, thereby sending a strong message on the obligation to respect human rights.  He also called on the European Union to support flotillas to the Gaza Strip and the membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations.

81. In the discussion that followed, civil society representatives raised questions regarding the legality of a Jewish State, the flotilla and the credibility of the European Union as a genuine mediator.  They also appealed for greater cooperation among the members of global civil society to pressure Governments into action on the Middle East.  Mr. de Rossa, while acknowledging the legality of a Jewish State in international law, cautioned about the need to ensure protection of all citizens on an equal footing in such a State.  Regarding the flotilla, he regretted that the European Union did not have a navy to use in such initiatives, but confirmed that some of its member States had warned the Israeli Government that violence would not be tolerated.         Mr. Jouret, responding to the question on the lack of action by the European Union, underlined that it was a soft power and had an important normative function.  It had also been more proactive and had taken concrete steps, but that process took time, he explained.  He also hoped that improved relations between the United States and the European Union would bear fruit for the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  Mr. Bamya said that the credibility of Europe was on the line, particularly at this turning point in the history of the region.  

IV.  Closing session

82. Saviour F. Borg, Rapporteur of the Committee, introducing the concluding statement of the Organizers, noted that the participants had reviewed the European efforts over the past 20 years to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.  He stressed the Organizers’ serious concern, shared by many participants, that the various initiatives did not lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  For that reason, the Organizers urged the parties to resume, without delay, direct negotiations, on the basis of the well-known and globally accepted parameters.  Mr. Borg said that the participants had pointed out that the fundamental changes sweeping across the Arab world had made the need for progress on the Middle East peace process all the more urgent, and noted that reaching a solution between Israel and the Palestinians would also be an important stabilizing force in the wider Middle East.  The Organizers and the participants alike, he stressed, appreciated the political support of the European Union towards the resumption of the peace process, and its position on the key parameters and principles, set out in the conclusions of the Council of the European Union of December 2009 and reaffirmed in December 2010.  He reiterated the importance of the readiness of Palestinian institutions for statehood, referring to the positive assessments by the World Bank, IMF and the United Nations.  He also expressed appreciation to the European Union and to its member States for their political and financial support of the State-building process carried out by the Palestinian Authority.  However, progress on the socio-economic front was not sufficient, so long as the main obstacle to development, namely the occupation, was still in place, he opined.

83. Mr. Borg recalled the participants’ observation that the month of September would be important for Palestinian and international efforts at bringing about Palestinian statehood, as the admission of Palestine as a Member of the United Nations would be taken up at the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  Finally, he concluded, the Organizers encouraged the national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations and civil society organizations to continue to play an important role in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian political process. 

84. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, expressed his personal gratitude to the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights, as well as all the panellists and participants representing their Governments and civil society organizations.  In particular, given the location of the Meeting, he thanked the European Union for its friendship as well as political and financial support to the Palestinian cause, and invited it to join in legislating the global consensus at the United Nations in September.

85. Mr. Mansour then outlined the main elements of the process that would unfold at the United Nations in September.  First, he acknowledged the determination of President Abbas, dating back to 2004 when he was elected, to pursue a peaceful course and not resort to violence in accomplishing the objectives of the Palestinian people.  This was a fundamental strategic shift in the midst of a period when violence was used as a tactic to oppose the occupation, he stated.   A good example of this new strategy, he added, was the peaceful resistance of a village against the intention of the Israeli Defense Forces to build the separation wall on their land, described in the documentary Budrus.  This new approach was complemented, he stated, by the plan of Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, to build infrastructure, schools and hospitals, as a form of peaceful resistance against the occupation.  The third element was the diplomatic effort to engage with many countries to recognize Palestine as an independent sovereign State, he said.  Costa Rica, a traditional friend of Israel, was the first one, followed by almost all the Latin American countries.  These were, in his view, visionary actions of countries willing to invest in peace.  Now the spotlight was on Europe, the last group that had not yet recognized Palestine, he said.

86. Mr. Mansour called upon Europe as a group, including the European Union, to take up its role, in the same way it played an important role in 1947, when, unlike today, there was no consensus on the two-State solution.  He recalled that the Palestinian Authority and the European Union every year managed to agree on the language of 13 political resolutions at the United Nations, supported unanimously by the European Union.  In conclusion, Mr. Mansour reiterated the willingness of the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, as two equal independent and sovereign States, and called upon Europe to invest in peace and help the Palestinians and the Israelis to embark on a new journey.

87. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, said that during the two days of the Meeting, participants had taken stock of European efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, analysed various European initiatives aimed at resuming direct negotiations, reviewed the status of the recognition of the State of Palestine, and looked into ways of raising the political profile of Europe in the current efforts at resuscitating the political process.  The sense of urgency in the room was palpable, he commented, and stressed the importance of both the Israeli and the Palestinian negotiators following a clear set of guidelines.  It was also important, he added, that members of the international community should speak with one voice.   The other take-home message, he continued, was that peace negotiations and the diplomatic recognition of Palestine were not mutually exclusive objectives.  “Recognition or peace” was a false dichotomy, he stated, adding that a vote for the Palestinians was not a vote against Israel.   He pointed out that everybody recognized that the Palestinians were ready for statehood, hence peace negotiations and recognition could move forward on parallel tracks, as called for in the road map, adding that European support for both objectives was absolutely needed.  He also stressed that negotiations were not conducted in a vacuum and that to ensure success, the settlement activity should stop, as should other illegal acts such as demolitions, expulsions and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  He recalled that many speakers had mentioned the European Union’s leverage owing to its Association Agreements with Israel, calling on it to use it more effectively to ensure the respect of international law.

88. Mr. Diallo reiterated the deep appreciation of the Committee to the Government of Belgium for hosting and participating in the Meeting.  He noted that the participants at the Meeting expressed the hope that the European Union would play a more robust political role in the peace process, and concluded by saying that the Meeting was just one step towards that objective.

Annex I

Concluding statement of the Organizers

1. The United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process was held in Brussels on 28 and 29 June 2011, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People of the United Nations.

2. The Meeting aimed at contributing to international efforts at achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians by looking at the role of Europe in advancing a two-State solution.  It took stock of 20 years of European efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking; examined current efforts at resuming direct negotiations for a permanent settlement; and looked at other possible options, including achieving a two-State solution through multilateral mechanisms.  The Meeting considered current European political initiatives, including the parameters for a negotiated settlement, endorsed by the European Union in April 2011, as well as the role of parliamentarians and civil society in promoting peace.

3. At the outset of the Meeting, the participants reviewed the European role during the past 20 years of efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.  They acknowledged the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 as a decisive step towards initiating a political process and negotiations between the parties.  Its terms of reference, including the land-for-peace formula, provided the vision for ending the Israeli occupation of Arab lands that started on 4 June 1967 and for achieving peace between Israel and all its neighbours.  They also assessed the Oslo process that started with the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 as a result of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.  It led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority and its various self-governing institutions.  In the absence of a breakthrough in the political process, the Quartet, with the active participation of the European Union, developed in 2003 the road map – a performance-based guide to a permanent two-State solution of the conflict.  European countries had played and continue to play an important role in all stages of that process.  These efforts were complemented by initiatives of other countries or group of countries, namely the United States under the Clinton Administration producing important parameters for a solution and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.  Those milestone initiatives in Middle East peacemaking were geared towards building confidence and trust between the parties and, with the assistance of the wider international community, arriving at a solution of all the permanent status issues:  borders; security; Jerusalem; settlements; refugees; and water.  The Organizers shared the serious concern expressed by many participants that these various initiatives had not so far led to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Nevertheless, they produced a set of principles for a solution recognized by the Palestinian side and the world community.  The time has come for the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within mutually recognized borders, to take shape, with the independence of a sovereign and viable State of Palestine.

4. The participants looked into the current state of affairs in the political process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, regretting the prolonged impasse of the peace efforts and reiterating their full support for the revival of the Middle East peace process, based on the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Quartet road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the existing agreements between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.  The Organizers urged the parties to resume, without delay, direct negotiations, on the basis of the well-known and globally accepted parameters, which was the preferred path to the resolution of the conflict by the international community.  The Organizers appreciate that the participants had stated their firm commitment to ending the Israeli occupation that started on 4 June 1967 in order to achieve a permanent two-State solution in which Israel and Palestine would live side by side in peace and security within mutually recognized borders.

5. The Organizers once again emphasized that developments on the ground are critical and crucial in creating a climate conducive to a resumption of negotiations.  They reiterate that Israeli settlements and the separation wall built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and represent an obstacle to peace and should be stopped in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

6. The participants pointed out that the fundamental changes sweeping across the Arab world have made the need for progress on the Middle East peace process all the more urgent.  The Organizers agree it is imperative to redouble efforts to break the deadlock and ensure the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for independence in their State of Palestine.  Reaching a solution between Israel and the Palestinians would also be an important stabilizing force in the wider Middle East.

7. The Organizers and the participants appreciate the political support of the European Union towards the resumption of the peace process, and its position on the key parameters and principles, set out in the conclusions of the Council of the European Union of December 2009 and reaffirmed in its conclusions in December 2010.  These include the position of the European Union not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties, and its support towards finding a solution to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States.

8. The Organizers, together with a number of participants, welcomed the joint statement of France, Germany and the United Kingdom to the Security Council, as well as the statement of Portugal, of 18 February 2011, subsequently endorsed by the European Union, which called for the creation of the Palestinian State on pre-1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, an immediate halt to settlement activity, a just, fair and agreed solution to the question of Palestine refugees, and agreement on the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both countries.  The statements also called for security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and protect Israel's security.  The participants also recalled the speech by President Barack Obama on 19 May 2011, which underscored the need to establish the Palestinian State on pre-1967 borders.

9. The participants noted the important role played by the Quartet, and called upon it to take the lead and convene an urgent meeting, as called for by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, in order to endorse parameters for a negotiated two-State settlement set out in the joint Security Council statement.  The participants also welcomed the initiative by France to convene a peace conference with both parties in July, in an effort to restart the negotiations with a view to achieving a solution to the conflict.

10. The Organizers wish to reiterate the importance of the readiness of Palestinian institutions for statehood, referring to the assessments by the World Bank, IMF, and the United Nations that the Palestinian Authority is above the threshold for a functioning State in the key sectors studied, and that Palestinian institutions compare favourably with those in established States; and the subsequent endorsement by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of these assessments.

11. The Organizers wish to express appreciation to the European Union for its political and financial support for the State-building process by the Palestinian Authority.  The participants noted the financial support provided by the European Union to the Palestinian Authority, through the European Commission, which represented the largest share of the multilateral assistance to the Palestinian Authority.  The participants praised the individual member States of the European Union, some of which were among the main bilateral donors to the Palestinian Authority.  The Participants also welcomed the signing, in April 2011, of the Agreement between the European Union and the Palestinian Authority, giving immediate access and full liberalization to all agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fish and fishery products originating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which will further facilitate Palestinian trade, a crucial element for an emerging viable State.

12. The participants pointed out, however, that progress on the socio-economic front was not sufficient, as long as the main obstacle to the development, namely the occupation, was still in place.  In particular, the participants expressed frustration at the fact that the political track continued to fall behind the significant progress made by the Palestinian Authority in its State-building agenda.

13. The Organizers stressed the importance of Palestinian internal unity for the creation of the viable, sovereign and internationally recognized State of Palestine.  They welcomed the reconciliation agreement concluded in April 2011 under the auspices of Egypt, and called upon the parties to fully implement it.  The Organizers wish to express appreciation for the continued efforts of Egypt to assist in bringing about Palestinian reconciliation.  The Organizers welcome the support of the European Union of the Palestinian reconciliation efforts, based on the principles of non-violence, and its commitment to continue its support, including through direct financial assistance, for a new Palestinian Government composed of independent figures, as expressed in the conclusions of the Council of the European Union on 23 May 2011 and reaffirmed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

14. The participants noted that the month of September would be important for Palestinian and international efforts at bringing about Palestinian statehood.  In particular, a number of factors will converge in September:  President Obama’s target for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians; the completion of the Palestinian two-year State-building programme; and the request by the Palestinians for the recognition of their statehood.  The participants noted the efforts of Palestine, the Arabs and others in advancing the cause of recognition and admission of Palestine as a Member of the United Nations at the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, which will start in September 2011.  

15. In that regard, the participants noted that Palestine has already been recognized as a State by a substantial number of countries.  The Organizers endorse the call by the participants on the European Union to collectively recognize the State of Palestine, as well as on its member States to individually recognize the State of Palestine, if they have not already done so.

16. Turning to the national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations, and civil society organizations, the participants pointed out the important role that these organizations have played in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian political process, particularly through their work towards upholding international law and promoting an effective political dialogue aimed at resuming the negotiations and resolving all permanent status issues.  The Organizers encourage these organizations to develop closer cooperation among themselves, with Israeli and Palestinian lawmakers and civil society organizations, and with the United Nations and its Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and remain closely engaged on the issue, with a view to supporting a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

17. The Organizers welcome the critical role played by the European Union and individual European States in achieving a durable peace in the Middle East.  The Organizers reiterate their appreciation for the strong support by the officials of the European Union, as well as individual European Union member States for broader international efforts at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The Organizers encourage the policymaking organs of the European Union and its member States to continue to play an active role in various aspects of the political process, in addition to the substantial economic assistance of the European Commission, including through supporting Palestinian statehood at the United Nations during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly starting in September 2011.

Annex II

List of participants