Thursday

18th Oct 2018

Interview

EU-Israel meeting risks to 'bury' two-state solution

  • Erekat with EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini in Palestine in 2015 (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian diplomat, has said that if the EU “rewarded” Israel with a summit-type meeting later this month, it would be helping to “bury” the two-state solution.

“The Israeli government shouldn’t be rewarded for its systematic violations of international humanitarian law. Rather, there must be accountability,” he told EUobserver in an interview.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Erekat: US embassy move to Jerusalem would be "end of any role for Washington in our region" (Photo: Hadar)

“Lack of accountability, impunity, is what provides the Israeli government with enough confidence to move ahead with its plan to bury the prospects of the two-state solution,” he said.

Asked when the moment will come when that solution was no longer viable, he said: “We may be witnessing it now.”

The EU foreign service aims to hold an “association council” with Israeli leaders on 28 February.

The summit, the first of its kind in five years, is to take place despite the EU’s verbal rebuke of Israel’s plan, announced in January, to build some 6,000 new homes for Jewish settlers on Palestinian land.

More than half a million settlers have already come to live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since Israel occupied the territories after a war in 1967.

The EU and the UN have long said the solution to the conflict should be the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as their shared capital.

Erekat said the reality on the ground was Israel’s creation of one “apartheid” state that denigrated Palestinian rights, however.

“It’s about theft of land and natural resources. It’s about dividing our families and preventing our economic development. Overall, it’s about the violation of our basic human and national rights,” he said.

He said the EU should “move towards sanctions against Israel”, such as “banning settlement products” from being exported to Europe.

But he said that, behind closed doors, “a few member states have been putting pressure on the EU not to take any action”.

He declined to name them, but the list includes Britain, Hungary, and Lithuania, who vetoed an EU declaration last month that was to have endorsed a new French initiative for Arab-Israeli talks.

“The Netanyahu administration knows that no action will be taken,” Erekat said, referring to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians flee to Europe

Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, spoke out on the eve of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (6 February).

He also spoke ahead of Netanyahu’s visit to the UK the same day and to the US later this week.

EU ministers are to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East Peace Process, among other topics, such as how to stop migrants coming via Libya to Europe.

Erekat said the two issues were linked because the number of Palestinian refugees trying to reach the EU from camps in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria was “growing”.

He said this was because they “have been persecuted by terrorist groups”, referring to jihadist groups such as Islamic State.

He also said it was because they had no Palestinian state in which to seek shelter.

“What choice do they have? Hundreds have already died in the Mediterranean Sea [en route to Europe] because Israel doesn’t allow them to go back home,” he said.

About 1 million Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria.

There are 2 million more Palestinians in Gaza. The UN says the strip will become “unliveable” by 2020 due to Israel’s economic blockade, making them likely to also join the exodus to Europe in greater numbers.

New opening for Russia?

Erekat urged the EU to play a bigger role in the peace process in reaction to Donald Trump’s election in the US.

Trump, a pro-Israeli hawk, has said he might move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s UN-recognised capital, to Jerusalem.

The 61-year old Erekat, who was Palestine’s chief negotiator in talks with Israel in the 1990s, said “it has been made clear that the days of an occupier [Israel] negotiating alone with a people under occupation only under US mediation are gone”.

He added that the Jerusalem move “would be a total disaster”.

“This would be the end of an era, probably the end of the two-state solution, or at least the end of any role for Washington in our region.”

He indicated that Palestine might turn to Russia for help in the absence of adequate EU or US leadership.

“Russia is already playing a very important role,” he told EUobserver.

“I was recently in Moscow and foreign minister [Sergei] Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to ending the Israeli occupation, including of East Jerusalem,” he said.

Russia is trying to expand its influence in the Mediterranean, but it remains to be seen if Russian leader Vladimir Putin would jeopardise his friendly relations with Trump by challenging Israel.

“Russia has recognised the State of Palestine and we appreciate this gesture. Now it is time to turn their political position into concrete measures on the ground”, Erekat said.

EU criticises Trump's Israel embassy idea

EU foreign relations chief Mogherini has warned that if Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem it could have “serious consequences”.

Germany: trust in Israel 'profoundly shaken'

Germany and France have spoken out in strident terms against Israel’s plan to confiscate privately-owned Palestinian land by legalising settler outposts.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  2. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  3. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  4. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  5. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  6. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  7. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them
  8. No progress at Brexit summit, talks continue

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us