Haaretz (Link) - Adar Primor (October 25, 2009)
For exactly 10 years Javier Solana has represented the "international face" of Europe; 10 years in which he has closely followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with all its turns and crises; a decade in which, to a great extent he was the answer to the famous question of Henry Kissinger: "Who should I call when I want to talk to Europe?"
To a certain extent Solana, the head of Europe's Common Foreign and Security Policy, has served simultaneously as the counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Gates.
Soon, the most complicated role in the world may come to an end: with the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty - the constitutional document of the European Union - the EU will appoint, for the first time, a foreign minister, who will head a European diplomatic service. Solana will step down. A proverbial moment before he does, he has agreed to grant Haaretz an exclusive interview.
The 67-year old Solana, who was in Israel this week as a guest at the President's Conference, is uncertain what the future holds for him. He is also not willing to reveal whom, among the candidates for the new position, he prefers. He prefers to talk about the day to day issues that were his bread and butter during the past decade.
For example, he would like to understand what troubled Israel that led to its decision to prevent French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to travel to the Gaza Strip this week. After all, he says, the visit was humanitarian in nature. He was told that Israel would like to prevent a "Hamas festival" that will grant legitimacy to the terrorist group ruling the Gaza strip.
He was also told that, according to one assessment, the Israeli attitude stemmed from the French handling of the Goldstone report. France opted to abstain from the vote at the Human Rights Council instead of rejecting the report, and angered the Israeli leadership.
Solana responds with a smile and a gesture of dismissal. He says that, "this is a very short sighted approach. After all, it is the Foreign Minister of France - a state which is one of the most important allies of Israel."
For years Solana has sought to bring about a "victory of a coherent and effective European foreign and security policy," in order to prove that Europe has joint values and political direction, which it advances on the international arena. In order to emphasize this, Solana - a Physics professor - offers a parallel from the world that is close to his heart.
"The Union is not a mixture of states," he says. "It is a type of molecule with joint electrons that enable us to act together and make binding political decisions."
However, it appears that during the vote at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, the electrons opted to make up new rules of physics: Italy, Hungary and Slovakia voted against the Goldstone Report, Belgium abstained, while Britain and France chose not to participate in the vote.
He is much more concerned with the near consensus that has taken root in Israel against Judge Richard Goldstone.
"I know Goldstone very well," Solana says. "He has helped us a great deal in his legal work in former Yugoslavia and I have no doubts regarding his rectitude and honesty. It is entirely obvious that Goldstone did not seek to harm the sides, certainly without intention to harm Israel. His report may not have been read properly. In any case, it is now important to look forward and to hold an independent investigation in Israel and the other side [the Palestinians]. This would be the best outcome."
When Solana is asked whether Israel is in part responsible for the report, for its refusal to cooperate with its author, he says, "Sure, I would have recommended that Israel would have cooperated. In the Union we respect the UN and multilateral bodies a great deal. Unfortunately, this view of ours which is linked to the era of globalization and the need to create different mechanisms for global governance, is different from the view that is prevalent here."
Solana is presenting a European philosophy, which in Israel they are hard pressed to understand. Multilateralism and internationalism - the "new religion" of Solana and his colleagues in the EU, constitute an essential lesson of the world wars, and of the destructive nationalism that caused them.
They are also the result of the increased migration and the demographic changes that Europe underwent in the past decades, and which blurred the notion of nation-tribe throughout the continent. Europe has relinquished the supremacy of national values in favor of the international society of law.
However, Solana's "religion" is not of the radical sort. For example, he tends to emphasize that the struggle against terrorism is deeply ingrained in him.
In an interview he gave Haaretz in 2004, he said that "nearly every week I had to participate in the funeral of a person who was killed by terrorism. This situation did not change even when I served as Secretary General of NATO, and reached its peak with the large attacks that occurred in Madrid on March 11 2004."
Perhaps this is why he understands - and even supports - the call of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the need to alter the laws governing international warfare, which are not aligned with the reality in which countries need to combat terrorist entities. Solana chooses not to address the question of war crimes attributed to Israel in the report, but stresses that "in yesterday's world there were wars of armies against armies and there were laws and conventions that dealt with the conduct of such wars. It is necessary to invest thought to the changing situation in which there is asymmetry between fighting parties - a situation in which it is difficult to implement the classic/old rules of war." But he says that "until new rules are in place we must obey the old ones."
Solana opts not to comment on the declaration of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which described the Goldstone report as "an obstacle to the peace process." However, his view on the matter is clear: In a visit Solana made to Ramallah this week he stressed that the aim of the EU is "to establish a Palestinian state at the earliest possible moment within the 1967 borders."
In July it seemed that he had lost his patience when he declared that "the UN should set a target date for establishing a Palestinian state and recognizing it, even if the Israelis and the Palestinians do not reach an agreement. Then the Security Council will be asked to call for the adoption of a two state solution that will deal with all the parameters of borders, refugees, the issue of Jerusalem, and the security arrangements. There is a need to also accept the Palestinian state as a full fledged member of the UN and set a time table for implementing the solution until the declaration of an end to the conflict."
At the panel on "Tomorrow," which was part of the President's Conference, Solana said that peace much be achieved today. "Globalization and the demographic data in the region demand it," he says during the interview.
His efforts in our region have taught him that without the mediation of a third party the two sides are unable to reach agreement. Solana is convinced that following the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union - which he describes as "one of the most beautiful constitutional projects" - will have a greater and more evident presence on the international arena. He therefore insists that "Israel must place some of its eggs in the European basket," and not leave everything in the American one.
For example, he says that if the sides ask the EU to deploy a military force in the territories that the IDF will evacuate as part of an agreement, Europe will rally to the cause. However, he recognizes the fact that the United States, "with whom Europe is in complete agreement on most issues," is the "best" mediator for the region. Solana does not agree with the disappointment and the ridicule that has followed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama.
He is convinced that the U.S. president is determined to act in order to resolve the problem and applauds the appointment of George Mitchell to the role of special envoy to the Middle East - "a wise man with many talents," he says. The two were party to the preparation of the Mitchell Report in 2001, which investigated the events of the second intifada, and led to the formulation of the road map.
Solana is also the representative of the international community in the talks with Iran on its nuclear program. He visited Tehran many times and held dozens of meetings with the Iranian leadership. In response to a question on a military option in case talks fail, Solana was firm.
"We are looking for political solutions, but I want to be very clear," he says. "We will not accept in any case a situation in which Iran has nuclear weapons."