This past week I was part of an international delegation of parliamentarians from 20+ nations that met in Jerusalem for an International Israel Allies conference.
Days of dialogue, briefings and discussion were augmented by a first-hand look at the situation in the industrial zones of Judea and Samaria, or the “West Bank” as some prefer to call it.
On September 23, we released a statement taking issue with the misdirected and counterproductive regulations being advanced by the European Commission limiting co-operation, funding or partnership with any Israeli agency or institution operating outside the pre-’67 cease-fire line. This move by the Commission was condemned by the MEPs and European parliamentarians among us as being advanced without debate or consent of the EU parliament.
Since much has already been said about this subject, I will limit myself to just three of many compelling arguments against such measures.
First, the armistice lines of ‘67 were never intended to determine national boundaries; that was left to be worked out through negotiation.
The Commission puts itself in the position of predetermining the outcome of such negotiations at Israel’s expense. Second, the EU has no such measures against other nations involved in territorial disputes (Western Sahara, Kashmir), even involving its own member states (Cyprus).
Third, just one of the industrial zones, Barkan, near Ariel, employs about 7,000 people, roughly half Palestinians who pay taxes to the Palestinian Authority and earn the same wages and benefits as their Israeli counterparts as prescribed by Israeli law. That’s two to three times the wage prospects elsewhere in the disputed territories. If the EU initiatives were effective, it would hurt the very people they are proposing to help the most. Indeed, it is in working together that relationships of mutual respect, co-operation, friendship and trust are being forged. This dynamic is something that a genuine peace process and genuine peace partners should be striving to advance.
Since our statement two other prominent voices, none less than those of former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and former first minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble have spoken out against the imbalanced EU initiative.
IN THE past few years, experts in international law, like Dr. Jacques Gauthier (Canada), have re-examined the assumptions (green line) behind the EU initiative and the borders issue. Gauthier spent 20 years looking at sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem through the lens of international law; his work, (1,200 pages, 3,200 footnotes and references and weighing 20 lbs.) along with that of Dore Gold and Alan Baker (Israel) and Eugene Rostow (USA) contend convincingly that the boundaries issue was determined in 1920 by the Principled Allied Powers on April 24 and 25 in San Remo, Italy. That decision, affirmed by the League of Nations in August 1922 and grandfathered by the UN Charter in 1945, is the basis for boundaries, not the ’67 cease-fire line. Their work affords us an opportunity to re-examine where the international peace process went wrong.
After 65 years of trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole, perhaps it is time to review the feasibility of a “two-state solution.” Looking at the horrendous humanitarian crisis and bloodshed in Syria, the uncertain future in Egypt, the failed experiment of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in pursuit of peace, is it still possible to believe that creating another Arab state, this one within boundaries that were promised to Israel, has any prospect of leading to longterm peace? Israel has proven it can live in peace with Arabs: 65 years of a Jewish state with 1.5 million Israeli Arab citizens who enjoy mobility rights, voting, representation in the Knesset and in the courts, living alongside Jewish citizens. It is time for the PA to demonstrate it can live alongside Jewish neighbors in peace. A good place to start would be for the PA to stop all incitement against Israelis in the media: print, TV and radio, in the schools: poems, plays and polemic that demonize Jews, glorifying suicide bombers as heroes, released killers as role models, and naming sports events and teams after murderers.
Canada has taken steps to ensure our contributions to the PA are directed to positive programs. Our recently negotiated $50 million toward building infrastructure for a potential PA state needs to be linked to demonstrable results in expunging demonization of its peace partner.
I, for one, will be calling on my own government to demand as much.
The PA missed a good opportunity to condemn the murder of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians this week, one while he stood on guard at a trouble spot in Hebron, the other lured to his death by a Palestinian he had befriended.
The silence from the PA is unacceptable.
In less than seven years it will be 100 years since the legal foundations of a reconstituted Jewish homeland were established through international law. It’s time to take a reality check on the path to peace. Time is short and the stakes are high.
The author has served 12 years as a member of the Canadian Parliament; he is past chairman of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group and past vice chairman of the Canada- EU Parliamentary Association.