Former EU leaders deplore failure to bring Israel to account

Open letter to New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully 22 April 2013

The inevitably unjust outcomes of direct so-called 'peace' talks between Palestinian representatives and Israel, insisted upon by Israel and the US, have been highlighted in a letter, entitled Time is running out for a two-state solution, addressed to EU leaders from the European Eminent Persons Group (EEPG). The nineteen authors of the letter include former Italian and Spanish prime ministers, Romano Prodi and Felipe Gonzales, as well as Javier Solana, the former EU policy chief, and Richard von Weizsacker, the former German president to the EU leadership – see European Council on Foreign Relations http://ecfr.eu/blog/time_is_running_out_for_a_two_state_solution.

Refreshingly, the letter to the EU leadership puts the need for Israel to be required to respect international law as the foundation for a genuine peace process, a principle never mentioned in New Zealand Government policy statements regarding the Middle East. The flagrant violations of international law perpetrated by Israel have led the EEPG to emphasise the need for “an explicit recognition that the current status of the Palestinian Territories is one of occupation, with responsibility for their condition falling under international law on the occupying state.”

Referring to the dire suffering of Palestinians under occupation, the group refers with deep concern to “the deteriorating standards of humanitarian and human rights”. The EEPG noted that it is “time to give a stark warning that the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy.” In addition, the letter also observed that “the steady increase in the extent and population of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the entrenchment of Israeli control over the OT in defiance of international law, indicate a permanent trend towards a complete dislocation of Palestinian territorial rights.”

In spite of these violations, Western leaders, including the New Zealand Government, fail to countenance UN sanctions against Israel. The EEPG letter states that the world community should insist that “Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 lines are illegal, must cease being expanded and will not be recognised as one of the starting points in any new negotiations.” Noting that all parties “with a valid claim to participate in negotiations must renounce the use of violence outside established UN norms” the letter reminds us that there have been no calls from Western leaders for Israel to renounce violence. The world community's responsibility for the security of the Palestinian people is acknowledged in the EEPG call for “a vigorous international drive for the implementation of much improved humanitarian and human rights conditions in both the West Bank and Gaza, monitored by the United Nations, whatever the state of peace negotiations might be at any time.”

In their appeal to the EU Council of Ministers to “recognise that the Peace Process as conceived in the Oslo Agreements has nothing more to offer” the members of the European Eminent Persons Group on the Middle East Peace Process are simply stating the obvious. It is simply not credible that our leaders cannot see what has become so clear both to the authors of the letter and to the world-wide movement for justice for Palestinians. Here are some questions to which the PHRC (and no doubt many other observers) would appreciate answers:

What is the New Zealand Government's position regarding the European Eminent Persons Group's letter to the EU leadership?

Is the New Zealand Government willing in future to require Israel to respect and abide by the principles of international humanitarian law?

Does our Foreign Affairs Minister still believe that pursuing what he calls 'dialogue' with Israel has achieved any results – and, if so, could he state what he believes they may be?

Does Murray McCully believe it appropriate to continue rewarding Israel both in terms of trade and diplomacy?

Is the New Zealand Government prepared to call for UN sanctions against Israel so long as it continues to inflict dire suffering upon the Palestinian people in what is described in the EEPG letter as “the deteriorating standards of humanitarian and human rights.”?

If the New Zealand Government is not willing to press for sanctions, then we ask Mr McCully to please explain why, in his opinion, sanctions should not be called for.

Leslie Bravery
Palestine Human Rights Campaign www.palestine.org.nz

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