EU Observer (Link) - Andrew Rettman (April 14, 2011)
The Palestinian Authority has welcomed endorsement of a UN report on institution building as a “birth certificate” for statehood amid Israeli concern over a potential unilateral declaration of independence.
The Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on Palestine at a meeting in the EU capital on Wednesday (13 April) endorsed a UN report which says that in six key areas - rule of law, the economy, education, health, social protection and infrastructure - in the West Bank “government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.”
The AHLC is an international body comprising the EU, US, Israel, Canada, Norway, Russia, four Arab countries, the UN, the World Bank and the IMF.
The endorsement comes ahead of a UN meeting in September in which Israel fears the Palestinian side will unilaterally declare independence in territories under its control before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war due to a stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Speaking after the event in Brussels, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said: “This very important meeting effectively recognised the reality of a state of Palestine being projected on the territory occupied in 1967, which amounts effectively to a birth certificate for the reality of Palestinian statehood.”
Asked by press if the move makes a unilateral declaration more likely, he said he would favour a final settlement recognised by Israel: “We are not looking for yet another declaration, or for a virtual state.”
He went on to note that the AHLC-UN decision, plus related decisions to grant the Palestinian Authority observer status in the WTO and tariff-free exports to the EU, are “reflective” of growing support for independence, however.
“These are important developments and we see them as reflective. A lot of countries around the world stand ready to offer that recognition. Of course, exactly when they do so precisely is a time for their choosing.”
Israeli diplomat Irit Ben-Abba, underlined that the AHLC still sees the stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks as the way forward.
“I am very glad the consensus in the room is that the only way to solving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is through a negotiated peace agreement. There’s no other way to circumvent the direct negotiations between us and the Palestinians.”
The peace talks have stalled largely due to Israel’s continuing expansion of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
The UN report noted that since September 2010 Israel has given the green light for 1,700 Jewish settlement units while continuing demolitions of Palestinian homes and evictions of Palestinian families especially in east Jerusalem.
It noted that Israel maintains around 500 roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank and a partial blockade on movement of goods in and out of Gaza.
It added that 10 Palestinians were killed and 545 injured in the West Bank in the reporting period, on top of 24 deaths and 114 injuries in Gaza. It also said Israel continues to hold around 6,000 Palestinians in jail “including around 300 children and some persons held without charges.”
A parallel Israeli report submitted to the AHCL instead underlined “the barrage of missiles” recently launched from Gaza, the murder of a Jewish settler family and the long-term captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel’s Ben-Abba said a decision last year to expand the list of products allowed into Gaza effectively “opened the crossings for all goods.”
The new list was drawn up after international outrage when Israeli commandos killed nine people on a flotilla trying to break the Gaza siege. Ben-Abba noted that international NGOs are planning to send a new flotilla in late May.
“There’s no necessity for flotillas … We call on all governments to put pressure on NGOs to stop all attempts to send flotillas to this region,” she said.
For his part, Tony Blair, a former British leader who currently works as an international envoy to the Middle East, appeared to give Israel a carte blanche for collateral damage in Gaza.
Asked by press in Brussels on Wednesday what he thinks of a recent Arab League proposal for a Libya-type no-fly zone for Israeli jets over Gaza, he said: “If the rockets keep coming, then there will be actions taken by the government of Israel and then we get into a situation where civilian lives will be lost.” †