Home Page

Foqaha: Palestinians see EU as Middle East's 'honest broker'

By: Radovan Geist, EurActiv.com



The Geneva Initiative draws up realistic and achievable solutions to the Middle East problem, based on previous official negotiations, international resolutions, the Quartet Roadmap, the Clinton Parameters, the Bush Vision and the Arab Peace Initiative.
He was speaking to EurActiv Slovakia's Radovan Geist.
The Geneva Initiative is a non-governmental initiative that aims to create a 'viable Palestinian state'. What does 'viable' mean in economic and security terms?
When we speak about a 'viable Palestinian state' we mean it from at least three perspectives - geographic, political and economic.
Economic viability means Palestinian control over their economic resources. These resources are related to control over the land, and also over the natural resources the Palestinians are entitled to, including water, which is considered one of the most important resources for agriculture, industry and services.
Furthermore, economic cooperation between Palestine and Israel will be a dire need for the future state. Without that, the Palestinians would have very bad prospects to develop their economy, to prosper.
We have close links in so many aspects: to a large extent we depend on Israel. We have a long common border and it is natural that a large part of our external trade would flow through Israel, as we also have one system of customs. We could benefit from Israel either as the market for Palestinian products, but also vice-versa.
The European Union is one of the international partners engaged in efforts to resolve the conflict. However, there are differences in the positions of individual member states. How is the EU perceived by Palestinian public?
The Palestinians perceive the EU, embodied by the European Commission, as an honest broker. Public attitudes to the European Union can be characterized as very positive. The public can feel the EU role in the Palestinian territories through the infrastructure projects, which are being implemented with EU assistance all over Palestine.
The EU also gives significant help to the Palestinian Authority, but it also largely contributes to the survival of civil society.
Frankly speaking, without the support of the EU and individual member states of the EU, Palestinian civil society would not survive. We get financial and organizational but also political support. Neither the government in Palestine and, I'm sure, nor in Israel has any allocations for civil society.
A sustainable resolution of the conflict will need not only the support of Israel and Palestine, but also of Israel's neighbours. What is the Geneva Initiative trying to do in this sense?
The Geneva Initiative is developed within the framework of a broader Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for peace between different Arab states and Israel. It is a general, broad framework for the resolution of the Middle East conflict.
The Geneva Initiative (GI) came as a model for solving the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. In this regard we can say that the GI can be also used as an enlightening model to encourage other Arab states to take positive steps towards Israelis – and can encourage Israel to take similar steps towards its neighboring countries.
There are two Arab states that still do not have an agreement with Israel – Syria and Lebanon. Egypt and Jordan already have peace treaties with Israel. They both welcome the Geneva Initiative and we have a certain level of cooperation.
But for different reasons, maybe it's still not the right time for Lebanon and Syria to adopt the same model as the Geneva Initiative. At the end of the way they would have to find their own ways. We are always seeking support from the Arab world, and we have it from the side of some moderate states. A certain level of cooperation already exists.
Even after an independent Palestinian state is created, Israel will still have quite a large Palestinian minority within its borders. What is their role in your peace proposal? And are they supportive of it?
You are speaking about Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship. According to the understanding of the GI, they are considered as Israelis. Now they are enjoying their political rights, they have their own institutions, organizations and even political parties.
They are the ones who are fighting to ensure a better future for this minority, which by the way is 20% of the total population.
Therefore, the GI does not deal with this issue in its proposal. They are considered as Israelis and their future lies within the state of Israel.

Click here to access interview on EurActiv.com