By MAJDI KHALDI/ PNN/ Ramallah/
The excitement of some of our European friends is truly eyebrow-raising.
Last month the Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi was invited by German foreign minister Heiko Maas to meet all European foreign ministers in the context of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
Palestine was not invited.
Regardless of any explanations with regards to EU-Israel relations, the occasion was seen as a reward for “suspending” a formal declaration of annexation.
In other words, Israel announces it will formalise a crime it is already committing, and when it says it won’t announce this “for some time”, some feel the immediate need to reward Israel, including conducting an association council.
The message is simple: de-facto annexation and other ongoing Israeli violations are not an obstacle to upgrade relations.
The internationally-agreed parameters for the Middle East peace process, endorsed by the European Union and its member states, are simple and are not up for interpretations: it is a two-state solution that fully ends the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 with East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine and a solution to all final status issues based on international law and relevant UN resolutions.
Focusing on ending the occupation is key for any prospects of peace.
Rewards for the Israeli government in absence of any Israeli compliance with its obligations only serve to perpetuate the denial of Palestinian rights and the strengthening of an apartheid regime.
European relations with Palestine can be summarised in three main aspects: the political relations, with an alleged support for the two-state solution yet a majority of EU governments still refrain from recognising the state of Palestine – while noting that several European parliaments have been urging their governments to do so.
The economic/development aspect, including important European efforts towards building Palestinian institutions and providing support to the Palestinian economy, which has been gratefully sustained; and also the accountability aspect and respect for international law.
Here we find that after 53 years of an illegal colonial-settlement occupation, European countries still don’t have the willingness to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations.
As the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground, with an unprecedented number of home demolitions and ongoing colonial-settlement expansion, we hear some representatives claiming that annexation is “off the table” and that therefore coordination with the Israeli side should be resumed.
No reference is made to the need for Israel to fulfil the agreements that enabled the existence of any coordination, including the Road Map, as well as its own obligations under international humanitarian law.
Most importantly, the Israeli government is not being asked to endorse two basic principles: the two-state solution and its obligations under international law.
No European government can claim that Palestine has not engaged them in trying to find a way out to the current situation.
We presented a document stating our positions for a final status agreement that are fully in line with their own positions as Europeans.
In the diplomatic side we have called for the realisation of an international peace conference that will facilitate a process of negotiations based on the internationally agreed parameters.
‘Insult to international law’
But some still asked us to present a counter-proposal to the US plan.
Whoever has read the US plan can easily conclude that it is an insult to international law and the most basic principles upon which the European Union has been founded upon.
Let us ask a rhetorical question. Would the European Union be allowed by its members to participate in a peace process based on any of the principles presented by the US Plan? The answer is simple: No.
This is a critical moment. The UAE-Israel agreement, welcomed by the European Union, represents a severe blow to the Arab Peace Initiative.
Referred to as the “Abraham Agreements”, the text represents a recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem and a direct threat to the status quo of Al Aqsa Mosque compound, and therefore to the Christian holy sites as well.
Both, the UAE-Israel agreement and those calling for closer European-Israeli ties, simply overlook peace in the Middle East as their priority.
They reward bad behaviour and criminal policies. The latest announcement made by Bahrain also goes in the same direction. Rewarding the Israeli occupation has proven to be a failed formula that won’t bring peace.
What the European countries can do is to accelerate the recognition of the state of Palestine on the borders of 1967 in accordance with international law and its principles that they believe in.
This political act will serve as a catalyst for peace and will inspire as a ray of hope in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian peace camp. This will truly lay the foundations for security, stability and real peace in the region.
Focusing on concrete measures to end the illegal Israeli colonial-settlement occupation, including accountability measures such as banning settlement products, and emphasising the internationally agreed parameters is the way to move forward.
This is how Israel will realise that regional peace and security don’t start in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere but here with a just peace agreement between Palestine and Israel on the basis of international law.
Dr Majdi Khaldi is the diplomatic affairs’ adviser for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.