Analysis: Why Palestinian leadership is right to engage in peace talks
Published Tuesday 07/01/2014 (updated) 13/01/2014 09:40
Vincent Fean is the British Consul-General to Jerusalem.
The US-sponsored peace talks are well under way: a moment to take stock, and to look forward.
The UK is a consistent, close friend of the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples. We seek a just and lasting resolution of this conflict, based on universally shared values.
And we have our opinion about how the conflict could end: in a negotiated solution with a safe and secure Israel living at peace side by side with a safe, secure, viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair and agreed solution for refugees.
There are spoilers on both sides of this conflict who do not wish this outcome. Whoever planted a bomb on a bus in Israel must not be allowed to win. President Abbas is right: violence only breeds violence. The way forward is the way he has chosen: the way of hope, with justice, to achieve a lasting peace. The way of dialogue and negotiation.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry are leading the peace negotiations, which are confidential -- rightly. The two parties can make the compromises needed for peace only away from the glare of publicity. But what is the role of Europe, and particularly my country, during this crucial time? For we do have a role -- an important one.
First, to underline the urgent need for an agreement. Systematic settlement expansion is the biggest single threat to the two state solution which is our shared objective. Time is not on our side.
Second, to encourage both parties to negotiate in earnest, for the common good.
Third, to offer hope to both of a better future for their children through an agreed outcome. That is why Britain led the way for Europe to offer unprecedented support to both states in the event of a peace deal. The EU stands ready to enter into a Special Privileged Partnership with the future state of Palestine and with Israel. For the Palestinian people, a just negotiated peace with Israel will bring huge rewards, including much closer political, economic and cultural ties with Europe.
That is the actively supportive British role at this time. We support President Abbas' government, led by Rami Hamdallah -- the best and only vehicle for the eventual international recognition of the sovereign Palestinian state.
The EU stands by its principled differentiation between Green Line Israel and all settlements, which we condemn as illegal under international law. The EU Funding Guidelines in relation to settlements come into force on Jan. 1, 2014, and will be implemented without fear or favor.
We maintain our principled opposition to house demolitions. The UK strongly believes that the promotion of business ties and respect for human rights are inseparable. Our guidance to British businesses here reflects our consistent view: the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights are territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
We will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, unless they are agreed explicitly by the two parties. There are therefore clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements. We do not encourage or offer British Government support to such activity.
Bilaterally, we are committed to deepening our ties to the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Next spring we hold our first strategic dialogue with the Palestinian Authority under Prime Minister Hamdallah, while the Palestine/Britain Business Council meets in London on March 20 to create new business ties in ICT, agribusiness, tourism, and investment in Jerusalem.
We are creating a hub in the Consulate to act as a focus for ICT business links, investing in the ingenuity and creativity of Palestinian entrepreneurs. Gaza is an essential element in this work; the UK Development Ministry is working there, in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank to help Palestinian businesses to grow and prosper.
Gaza is fundamental to the future Palestinian state. The 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza will be among its citizens. Today, they are suffering unsustainable, unjustifiable hardship – power cuts of up to 18 hours a day, poor drinking water, students and the sick unable to leave.
UNRWA is doing its best to cope, with strong UK support, but Gazans need and deserve better. Hamas needs to abide by the ceasefire agreed last year, including a complete need to militant activities and rocket fire. All parties need to build on the ceasefire to address the underlying causes of the conflict.
There needs to be an agreement between Egypt and the PA to reopen Rafah to legitimate travel, and there needs to be fuel to keep the power station going. The President and Prime Minister Hamdallah are active on both fronts, with strong UK and EU support. There is great urgency.
As my wife Anne and I prepare to return to London after more than three years with you, we wish to thank all those in the very active Palestinian civil society who have worked with us to deepen bilateral ties between our two peoples – from Nabi Saleh to al Aqaba, from Qalandiya to Cremisan.
I am convinced that the current efforts to establish peace with justice and dignity deserve all our support. The aim is noble -- a safe and secure Israel, living next to the sovereign State of Palestine espousing democracy, the rule of law and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, first and foremost Israel, with freedom of movement and worship for all who hold Jerusalem sacred.
It is an aim worthy of sacrifices, and needing international support. With our partners, the United Kingdom is working hard to make it become reality.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.