Tuesday

25th Jul 2017

Interview

Palestine's UN upgrade coming back on EU agenda

  • Palestinian girl walks by poster of late PLO leader Yasser Arafat in the Mar Elias camp, Beirut (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU should get ready for Palestine's renewed push to upgrade its UN status and stop calling for "illusory" peace talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian politician has said.

Palestine grabbed world attention in New York last September when it asked the UN for full membership and in November when the UN's cultural agency, Unesco, let it join.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The UN campaign then vanished from sight. But Souheil Natour - a legal scholar and a senior politician in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) - told EUobserver in an interview that it will come back on the agenda after Palestinian elections, expected in May or June.

"[PLO chairman] Abu Mazen was initially scared off by US and Israeli threats to withhold funds. But now he is coming back to this," Natour said.

He noted that the elections will count votes from Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank, as well as mass numbers of Palestinian refugees in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria - an act of defiance against Israel, which says the exiles can never come back because it would destroy the idea of Israel as a homeland for Jewish people.

Natour added that after elections Palestine will seek a vote in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to upgrade its status from "non-voting organisation" to "non-voting state."

"The EU shouldn't pressure us to go on with the illusory process of so-called peace talks with Israel ... We do not have two states because of Israel. They have no interest in a Palestinian state because they already have their own country," he said.

Natour was born in 1947 in what Arabs call Akka, a city in what is today northern Israel and which appears on most maps under its Hebrew name, Acre. Jewish forces expelled his family in 1948 and he has not been allowed back, even to visit, in 64 years. He now lives in the squalid refugee camp of Mar Elias in Beirut. Like the other 280,000-or-so Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, he has permanent residency but no right to vote or work.

In an insight into the psychology of the conflict, he said refugees will not give up their right of return.

"When the Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982 and surrounded West Beirut, it took 80 days of siege, of bombardment by the mightiest army in the Middle East and we did not kneel. If we were afraid of them, we could not have resisted."

He said Palestinians are prepared to live side by side with Jews in a two-state solution. But he rejected the idea of a Jewish homeland which forbids refugees from coming home.

"It's bullshit ... You can't create a modern country based on religious principles - this is not the Middle Ages. A modern country, like all European countries, must have equal status for all its citizens," he said.

Natour urged the EU to support Palestine by voting in favour of the UNGA upgrade, making good on promises to rebuild Gaza and boycotting Israeli exports from illegal settlements. He said it would be in the Union's interest in terms of relations with Arab countries and promoting peace in its southern "hinterland."

Submarine diplomacy

The PLO is sceptical on whether the Union can or will make a change, however.

"Without an American decision the Europeans cannot do much ... The Germans delivered their fourth submarine [to Israel] last week. So, if you are selling such weapons, submarines capable of firing an atomic bomb, when we ask for pressure on the Israeli economy or on the settlement problem, we don't trust the Europeans," Natour said.

He was equally sceptical on whether Arab powers such as US-allied Saudi Arabia, or the Saudi-linked Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, will confront Israel for Palestine's sake.

He added that Palestinians have their own Arab Spring, however.

He pointed to popular protests last year for Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas to join forces and to last May, when Palestinian youths from Lebanon, Jordan and Syria marched to the border "to see their land, to see their Palestine," in what ended with Israeli soldiers killing over 10 people.

"We have to work for our Spring also, to join the club, and the path is through the re-unification of all the Palestinian forces, all the factions," Natour said.

Pro-Palestinian NGOs have called for another mass walk to the border on 30 March.

Meanwhile, a recent Israeli intelligence report seen by the Haaretz newspaper says there is increasing risk of unrest. "At this point, neither the Palestinian leadership nor public opinion seems to want a violent escalation with Israel ... Still, the continuing freeze of the diplomatic process, combined with any drastic Israeli moves in the military and/or economic realm and the continuing stormy situation in the Middle East, could bring about a change in this approach," the report notes.

Unesco vote highlights EU split on Palestine

Just five EU countries voted "No" on admitting Palestine to the UN heritage agency, Unesco, in an indication of loyalties on the big question of UN membership.

Palestine fed up with waiting for EU common position

Palestine's ambassador to the EU has said Mahmoud Abbas will on Friday ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership despite last-minute British, French and US warnings not to go ahead.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

The Union's next seven-year budget, new tax laws, Palestinian refugees, Belarus and Syria stand out on next week's EU agenda.

Opinion

Why EU should reject new Israeli trade pact

By rejecting the so-called ACAA agreement, MEPs could begin to play a mature and constructive role in EU foreign policy in the Arab Spring region.

Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown

The trial, which opened Monday, of 17 journalists and administrative employees of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet is considered one of the most important episodes in a systematic campaign to silence dissent.

Opinion

Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

The EU’s apparent willingness to water down its stance on human rights in Egypt could seriously compromise its credibility and have far-reaching consequences for its relations with other countries in the region.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. European law will apply 'for years' in the UK, says EU judge
  2. US votes to sanction EU firms in Russia project
  3. Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown
  4. EU to give research tips on dual food quality
  5. Polish president's veto leaves uncertainties over next move
  6. EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto
  7. UK presses the Brexit pause button
  8. German car cartel case may take long time to prove

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  3. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  7. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  8. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  9. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  10. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  11. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices