Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Israel's Envoy to Europe on a September Declaration of Palestinian Statehood

Excerpts from an interview with Israel's ambassador to the European Union, Ran Curiel, by EurActiv (hat tip: reader Shirlee):

What steps might Israel take if a Palestinian state is declared or recognised in September?

It opens a lot of options because it goes back on all the 'acquis' of the peace process, which was based on a negotiated agreement, for a huge gamble by the Palestinians which will not necessarily bring them what they want. Unfortunately, one of the alternative possibilities is that the gap between the declarations and reality on the ground might not bring a state but another round of violence.

Is a Palestinian state in the Israeli national interest?

I think so. That's why we support a two state solution, and recognise the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. We expect a new Palestinian government to do the same when it comes to Israel.

Are you happy with the noises you're hearing from European leaders on the question of recognising a Palestinian state in September? France says it is extremely positive about the idea and Britain seems to support it. Doesn't the idea have momentum behind it?

I think that if you look thoroughly at the European position right now, it is fully supportive of a negotiated settlement. All the recent EU statements speak only of a state coming "through negotiations". There may be a change in the future but this is not the case right now.

How do you feel about the recent decision by the EU not to put an upgrade in relations with Israel on the agenda?

I think it is a mistake. When you look at EU-Israel relations, I think that engagement is imperative and improving relations to call it an upgrade serves the EU as well as Israel. If the EU wants to be heard more than it is – it has been heard, don't get me wrong – but if it wants to be heard more than it is in Israel, it has to reach a conclusion that it is in the EU's interest to upgrade relations with Israel, because what is upgrading?

If Israel has access to EU programmes and more contacts and cultural and scientific relations, it will take Israeli civil society closer to Europe's. I don't see what's stopping it.

The EU gives hundreds of millions of euros to the PA each year for state-building purposes and, as a stakeholder, maybe they want to see evidence that you're serious about negotiating a Palestinian state before giving you more preferential trade deals?

I can understand the EU interest and wishes but I think that this step is wrong. There are other ways to convey your messages to Israel. The stopping of the upgrade that was focused mainly on development and people-to-people relations is the wrong way to go. I think that you can achieve a better role by engaging and developing relations, and not blocking channels of communication.

Isn't the reality that the peace process has ground to a halt since Israel resumed settlements building and that - in the eyes of the world - Israel does not seem at all bothered by that, not least because any move towards Palestinian statehood would split the current government beyond repair?

Look at the recent declarations this week by some European pleaders who said that making the settlements a precondition was a mistake. We negotiated with Palestinians in the past while settlements were built. They are one of the issues which will be solved with other issues if we reach an agreement.

You cannot at this stage put preconditions to either side. We could have closed the ability to negotiate by raising the demographic issue, or the so-called right of return, as preconditions. The Israeli government was trying to get to the table to negotiate on all outstanding issues – Jerusalem, settlements, security, borders, refugees – and try to reach an agreement.

The government of Netanyahu did something that no other Israeli government had done before. It accepted a 10-month moratorium. The Palestinians did nothing for nine months and then said, ‘What will happen afterwards?' It is clear today that it was used as an excuse not to negotiate by the Palestinians. Unfortunately recent events, including going with Hamas without changing Hamas, point to the Palestinians acting unilaterally, which may produce negative results.

They would say that there's nothing more unilateral than an occupation.

Well how did we get there in the first place? It is not only about the occupation. It is clear today when you look at the Hamas charter. Before '67, there were no settlements and no occupation and the West Bank and Gaza were not under Israeli authority and there was no peace. It is not only what we do to the Palestinians but whether the Arab world and the Palestinians are prepared to reconcile with a Jewish state.

How do settlements increase the prospects for peace?

There were no settlements before '67 and there was no peace. Settlements are part of the process that developed after '67 and can be settled as part of an overall agreement. They cannot be excluded as one element.

Read the entire interview here:

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