Mr. Ilan Halevi, Political Counselor, Palestinian Delegation General to Germany
Mr. Ilan Halevi
Solving the Palestinian Question:
It is obvious for us that for global security, which addresses the risks and threats that weigh on international society, (even if taken in the most narrow political military sense without including climate change, HIV, and other sorts of threats), military action or the deployment of military force is like surgery: It is needed when medicine has failed. We think that conflict resolution and conflict prevention should be the focus, because they are the key to real security. This does not mean that we do not have to defend liberties and states and the security of our own citizens, but this cannot be the only strategic thinking because it is defensive and does not try to solve the issue.
What we see is that regional conflicts, when they go unsolved, are a major factor of global insecurity. Look at the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan and the role that the Kashmir issue has played to feed this rivalry throughout the years. We could say the same about Israel’s nuclear unknown or the ambiguous potential and ambition on the part of other states in the area, such as Iran, which has a nuclear program. There is great suspicion in many parts of the world, fed by conflict and mutual threats, that there are military back-thoughts behind this nuclear program, even though Iran claims it is a peaceful, civilian program. In our area we are not only threatened with big nuclear threats, but also continually face the devastating effects of small semi-conventional weapons like cluster bombs, phosphorous bombs, and all sorts of unidentified weapons whose use is a source of polemic; for example, when depleted uranium is used, at what level of depletion does it become innocuous? This is a question that we would like to raise.
SOLVING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
Contrary to the doctrine that led American policy on this issue under the two Bush tenures, the present U.S. administration has recognized the centrality of the Palestinian question regarding security and stability in the entire area. It is obvious that the non-solution of the Palestinian problem is one of the main factors of the tension and conflict in the area, and that it has served as an alibi and a pretext for all sorts of forces to promote interests that have nothing to do with the security of Israel nor with the freedom and rights of the Palestinian people. There is great awareness that without solving the Palestinian issue, it would be very hard to speak about the greater Middle East or about the stabilization or democratization of the area as a whole. I agree with Ambassador Primor that everything is known in terms of what the solution is. The solution is an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied since 1967 and peaceful coexistence between the two states.
I do not agree completely with the idea that the root of the non-implementation of this solution is the fear of Israeli public opinion that security for Israel and for Israelis will not result from such a peace agreement. The settlers’ lobby and settlement ideology have weight—the settlers are a minority, but they are a very vocal and powerful minority—and we see how they blackmail Israeli political life in general, creating an unfortunate illusion of force and power in Israeli society that is also an obstacle.
MOVING AWAY FROM CONFLICT
From the Palestinian point of view, we are determined to continue fighting for a peaceful solution on the basis of the coexistence of two states. We cannot afford the radical pessimism of those who say peace is no longer possible, it will never happen—we cannot afford it. This would be abdicating our responsibility to our people. We have to try and do whatever we can to diminish the suffering and move away from the conflict.The procedures exist to do so. It is true that it is paradoxical that we go back with regret to indirect talks after 17 years of direct negotiations, but this is due to the deterioration of the situation on all fronts and also the refusal of the present Israeli government to accept the terms of reference of any negotiation contained in the U.S. letter of invitation to the Madrid conference and all the subsequent agreements signed in Annapolis and so on. So I personally tend to agree that, without decisive international interference in the conflict, we will not move toward a solution in the short run.
It is obvious that if we are left to the dynamics so far, to confrontation on the ground, we will not move with any speed. But this has never been a conflict only between Israelis and Palestinians. This has always been a conflict enshrined in a regional context and framed by global considerations—there used to be a Cold War and now there is discourse that has stopped being official state doctrine in the U.S. with the new administration but remains discourse on the war of civilizations, discourse decivilizing the Islamic civilization because of the terrorist groups that claim Islam as a reference. We can see that we not only fight Israelis and Palestinians in our area to move away from conflict into real negotiations but we must also be very aware of the international and ideological context that allows this conflict to continue.
I would say that the first priority is to end the blockade of Gaza, which feeds hatred and bitterness. It is inefficient and it is politically counter-productive. Most of the EU governments that engaged in this blockade several years ago now acknowledge that it was counter-productive all the way. Of course, the key is the end of occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
I would like to tell Ambassador Primor that if the Palestinian Authority was not constantly humiliated and weakened by Israeli government policies it would have greater authority to ensure security, and that once we have a state we will have instruments to ensure security. I would also like to say that we have constantly been pleading for the stationing of international forces, be they U.N. forces or NATO forces. Recently we reiterated our plea to NATO to play a role in monitoring agreements, keeping the border, and ensuring Israeli security in case there are still some doubts as to our capacity to do so.