Letter to the EU Foreign Ministers
A call to responsibility
Recognizing Palestinian statehood now will not promote peace, will not boost negotiations and will not change the reality on the ground.
2014-10-24 by Friends of Israel Initiative Members
The only territory governed by Palestinians is the Gaza Strip. The West Bank is totally dependent of Israeli security and foreign money. The Palestinian State doesn’t exist yet and the only structures in place that may resemble a functioning State are controlled by an international designated terrorist group, Hamas.
Nonetheless many countries have "recognized" the Palestinian State through formal diplomatic declarations, and groups like the PLO have been granted observer status at the UN General Assembly. Europe had been resisting until now the urge to recognize an entity that doesn’t exist in real terms. Unfortunately some Europeans are today indulging in favoring a "recognition now" policy.
Thus, on October 3rd, the new Swedish government announced that it would recognize Palestine as a state to promote a negotiated two-state solution. Sweden’s PM Stefan Lofven did not clarify when would this happen, although he stated that the two-state solution requires "mutual recognition".
Also the British Parliament voted on October 13th to approve a motion recognizing Palestine as a state "alongside Israel." And though more than half of the MPs did not cast their vote, the result was overwhelmingly conclusive: 274 to 12, with ministers abstaining – a respected convention in backbench motions like this one.
We should expect more similar moves like these across Europe where the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is always a sensitive and political motivated issue. No matter how well intentioned these initiatives may be, recognizing now Palestine as a state is inappropriate, counterproductive and unwarranted.
It will not promote peace, it will not boost a negotiated solution, it will not change the reality on the ground and it will reward PNA’s hardliner’s policies and encourage unilateral moves, breaking with the Oslo agreement that any solution has to be a negotiated one, mutually satisfactory. The principles where all talks has been based on.
It is also unfair to Israel, the sole side to be pressured, and represents a tacit approval of the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, a thoughtless move at a time when jihadist groups like ISIS are in full expansion. Actually, moving the political and strategic focus away from the threat of the Islamic State to deal with a fantasy is a grave irresponsibility.
Thus, all the below signatories firmly believe that:
First, recognizing Palestine as a state today is detrimental for peace negotiations and premature. It will not promote peace for it will induce the Palestinians to stray from a negotiated solution, given the fact that a hard line and unilateral policies got them this far. It is also premature: Palestine still lacks the fundamental ingredients that a state requires to carry out its international and domestic functions.
Second, feel-good statements, popular as they may be, will not change reality on the ground; they will rather encourage the PNA to continue a unilateral and static strategy in the negotiations – thereby promoting a continued stalemate of the talks. The Oslo Accords, signed by the two parties, commit to negotiate on controversial issues to achieve peace and to reach an agreement enabling the existence of two states living side by side in peace with secure borders. Well intending but insufficiently thought declarations as these will only turn the pathway defined by Oslo, supported by the responsible members of the international community, into a chimera – and will preempt the peace it is supposed to midwife.
Third, these initiatives unfairly pressure only Israel. The Jewish State, always harassed and subjected to constant hostility by neighbors and terrorist groups, is persistently offering painful concessions to achieve a lasting and fair agreement, only to see the PNA refuse any compromise for the advancement of peace. It was Mahmoud Abbas who failed to answer the recent US framework document already accepted by Israel. It was Mr. Abbas who demanded what he knew were unacceptable concessions from Jerusalem, in a clear obstructionist policy; and it was Mr. Abbas who reached a unity agreement with Hamas, merely three months before the Islamist group started a massive launching of rockets and mortars into Israeli cities.
Fourth, Israel is today a bulwark against the expansion of Jihadism and other paramount threats in the Middle East, as its strategic support and strong compromise to defeat ISIS shows. Promoting initiatives to recognize now an imagined Palestinian State ignores the demand of compromises from the PNA and represents a huge mistake, considering how much Western countries need suport of its ally Israel against Jihadism and nuclear proliferation, among other worrying threats to global security. In the current circumstances, recognizing Palestine as a state is also an implicit approval of the unity agreement reached by al-Fatah and Hamas. As Hamas and ISIS are parts of the same Islamist front, we, Western democracies, should not legitimize an entity that is going to be formed by one of them.
Finally we cannot ignore that along with these proposals, on October 12th, Palestinians raised $ 5.4 billion by 50 countries in the Donors International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza. Only half of that will be dedicated to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, according to the Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende who co-chaired the Conference. Actually, no one knows where the other half will be spent on. Actually, no guarantees were provided to verify their real destiny. If the funds are received by a Hamas-ruled government in Gaza, it is more than likely, as Hamas did repeatedly in the past, that it will use the money to consolidate its power, amass more rockets and mortars and build more tunnels to attack Israeli civilians, while promoting radical and undemocratic policies in the street. Failing to track the proper use of funds is irresponsible and will contribute to the deterioration of Israel’s security position.
In short, recognizing Palestinian statehood now will not promote peace, will not boost negotiations and will not change the reality on the ground. It will reward PNA’s hardliner’s policies, encourage unilateral moves and break with the Oslo agreement that any solution must be negotiated and mutually satisfactory, a principle all talks are based on.
The Friends of Israel Initiative has always claimed that peace will only be reached through negotiations -as the Oslo Accords and all the international initiatives command. Recognizing Palestine as a state in the face of Mr. Abbas’s obstructionist behaviour, Hamas’ attacks to Israel and the present situation in the Middle East is detrimental for peace and weakens Israel’s position, rewarding Palestinian unwillingness to negotiate a true and meaningful peace with Israel. Thus, we call to all responsible leaders of our free and open nations to reject unilateral moves that only rewards one side. We call our leaders to call upon both parties to reassume without pre-conditions bilateral talks as the only way to really promote a lasting agreement and guarantee a durable peace. Actions that only undermine one of the parties will not produce peace, they will obstruct it. If we want to have a democratic, free, peaceful and prosperous Palestinian State alongside Israel, recognizing now an entity that is far from being democratic, free, peaceful and prosperous will thwart any possibility that any State will exist in the future.
Friends of Israel Initiative members:
José María Aznar, Former President of Spain
John R. Bolton, Former US Representative to the UN
Alejando Toledo, Former President of Peru
Giulio Terzi, Former Foreign Minister of Italy
Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico
Lieutenant Colonel Allen B. West (US Army, Ret), former US Congressman
Richard Kemp, Former British Military Commander
Roberto F. Agostinelli, Managing Director at Rhône Group, Rhone Capital
Fiamma Nirenstein, Italian politician, journalist and author
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
Andrew Roberts, British historian and writer
Carlos Alberto Montaner, Exiled Cuban author and journalist
Carlos Bustelo, Former Industry Minister of Spain
Rafael L. Bardají, Executive Director, Friends of Israel Initiative