Europe cannot pick and choose who it is willing to talk to in the quest for peace in the Middle East
Saturday October 28, 2006
"During his recent visit to the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisroel Beitenu party, which advocates the forced expulsion of the Palestinians from their land. Solana told reporters after the meeting that he disagreed with everything Lieberman said but that "we have to talk to everybody".
But this "everybody" clearly does not strictly mean everybody, because it continues to exclude the elected Hamas-led government of the Palestinian people. Although Solana disagreed with Lieberman, he nevertheless met him without preconditions. He did not find it necessary, for instance, to insist that Lieberman should first recognise the right of the Palestinian people to exist in their homeland or that he should abandon his racist anti-Arab position.
The Quartet, which consists of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, is adamant that sanctions imposed on the Palestinian people should not be lifted until Hamas fulfils three conditions. It has first to recognise Israel's right to exist on land from which the Palestinians were driven by force and to which their right to return continues to be denied. Secondly, the Hamas government must renounce "violence", or the right to resist occupation and struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people's stolen land and homes. Thirdly, they would have to consent to all the agreements signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Israel since the peace process started more than a decade ago, despite the fact that most of these agreements have only added to the suffering and deprivation of the Palestinians.
But should Hamas remain in government and refuse to accept these conditions then the embargo will go on and the Palestinians will continue to be collectively punished. It would be naive to expect the Quartet to play the role of an honest broker in a bid to resolve the conflict between the Palestinian and the Israelis. As long as the Israelis, irrespective of their policies and ideological positions, are accorded preferential treatment by western governments or international bodies it is doubtful that any peacemaking will succeed.
The Palestinians have not forgotten that it was European powers a century ago that opened this deep wound in the Arab and Muslim psyche, a wound that continues to bleed since it was decided that the European "Jewish problem" be resolved by espousing the cause of Zionism to establish a Jewish home in Palestine. However, the Palestinians have always been willing to forgive on the day that later generations of European policymakers admit their historical responsibility and embark on an effort to repair the damage. Unfortunately there seems to be no sign of this happening yet.
What Solana did, and not what he said, is what really matters on this occasion. The willingness on the part of such a senior EU official to meet an Israeli leader who wishes to see no more Arabs in Palestine, along with those who are generally considered by the European Union to be"mainstream", plays into the widespread belief among Palestinians that all Israeli politicians are the same."