China, can the new boy shift the block?
After Tablet’s report of shifting China/Israel/US relations (1), there is a report from AFP (2) of the Beijing United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace and then, for those who want to know who said what, official UN reports of that conference (3).
China’s Premier Li Keqiang toasts with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on May 8, 2013, in Beijing. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon, Getty Images
As Chinese-Israeli Relations Enjoy a Second Honeymoon, America Frets
The last time China and the Jewish state drew close, the United States drove them apart. Now there’s even more at stake.
By Sam Chester, Tablet magazine
June 28, 2013
“Like it or not, when President Peres celebrates his 100th birthday in 10 years’ time, this [conference] will be half Asian,” the Chinese real-estate tycoon Ronnie Chan boldly declared at last week’s Presidents Conference in Jerusalem, as he sat alongside outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. “I guarantee you.”
With Chinese-Israeli relations enjoying a new honeymoon capped by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent state visit to Beijing, Chan is one of many observers now speculating that Israel’s future lies in the east. At the same time, China’s dependence on Arab and Iranian oil and the growing rhetoric from Beijing about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are often depicted as the obstacles that could overshadow Sino-Israeli relations. “As the People’s Republic discovers the Jews,” warns a recent article in Foreign Policy, “it should remember an old Yiddish proverb: You can’t dance at two weddings at once.” But the reality is that Israel is less worried about the Arabs challenging its relationship with China than it is about the United States. Israeli officials at a recent meeting on China were concerned about how Jerusalem can strike a balance between Beijing and Washington. These officials remember that the previous era of close Sino-Israeli relations was brought to a sudden halt by American pressure.
Indeed, Israel has found itself forced to choose between China and the United States at several critical junctures in the recent history of both nations. Although Israel was the first Middle Eastern state to recognize China, the two newly independent states failed to establish official ties due to U.S. opposition at the outbreak of the Korean War. Israel and China had to wait until Nixon went to China in 1972 to begin a bilateral relationship.
The two sides quickly found common ground in the sale of Israeli weapons to China; for the next two decades—secretly during the 1980s but with increasing openness after the establishment of official ties in 1992—arms sales defined Sino-Israeli relations. As Israel became China’s second-largest weapons supplier, right-wing Israeli politicians chafing under the U.S.-led peace process suggested Beijing could emerge as an alternative to Washington. When Netanyahu visited Beijing in 1997, he expressed this sentiment to his hosts by remarking, “Israeli know-how is more valuable than Arab oil.”
Even as Israeli leaders anticipated a profitable future partnership with China, they failed to address growing U.S. unease with Sino-Israeli weapons sales. With China the key rival for U.S. strategists in the post-Cold War era, Jerusalem’s sale of advanced weapons to Beijing came under heavy scrutiny in Washington. During the 1990s, U.S. officials accused Israel of illegally providing China with weapons such as the Patriot missile, Lavi jetfighter, and Phalcon airborne radar system.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin (L) chatting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during a press conference in Jerusalem 13 April 2000. Jiang was on the second day of a six-day official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the first ever by a Chinese president. Photo by Andre Durand, AFP/ Getty Images
American pressure on Israel to cancel the Phalcon reached a fever pitch during the final years of the decade. During a historic visit to Israel in 2000 by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Ehud Barak assured his guest the Phalcon deal would go through. But two months later the Israeli leader gave in and canceled the billion dollar deal. Having personally insulted the Chinese president just as China was prepared to usher in a new era of strategic ties, Jerusalem’s eastern aspirations imploded. Whatever was left of Sino-Israeli strategic ties collapsed five years later when the United States prevented Israel from upgrading Harpy drones previously purchased by the Chinese. Forced to again choose between Washington and Beijing, Jerusalem committed to no longer selling weapons to China.
If the Obama Administration took a more adversarial stance toward Beijing, Israeli officials remain uncertain whether history would repeat itself and Sino-Israeli relations would again fall prey to U.S. fears.
China’s leaders have been credited with long political memories ever since Henry Kissinger was famously told by Premier Zhou Enlai that the impact of the French Revolution was “too early to say.” Fortunately for Israel, China’s leaders in the last decade have been far more forgiving of what a former Israeli politician calls “one of the most wretched chapters in Israel’s diplomatic history.” Since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Beijing in January 2007, and especially since 2010, Sino-Israeli relations have rebounded to encompass new forms of commercial, military, political, and cultural exchange.
In the absence of arms sales, the trade and investment at the core of contemporary Sino-Israeli ties may seem fairly harmless to U.S. interests. However, the growing prominence of cyber-attacks between America and China, coupled with Israel’s position as the global leader in this field, may reopen a Pandora’s Box of pressure between Israel and the two global powers. Cyber-security is just one cutting-edge field, along with drones, in which Israel excels and China wants to improve—and where civilian applications blur the line over whether these dual-use technologies can be sold to China under Israel’s 2005 agreement with the United States.
Although China and Israel are no longer in the weapons business, both sides are still driven by similar motives that guided their trade in arms. Israel remains addicted to the export potential of the vast Chinese market. China is still interested in acquiring Israeli technology. A key difference from the past is that China’s interest in Israel is no longer only about modernizing the Chinese military. With Beijing trying to build an economy that relies on innovation rather than imitation, Israeli technologies are desired across a range of industries. In the absence of a collapse in China’s economy, these favorable commercial trends will likely only improve over time.
Or at least they are supposed to. So far, a few big deals—Intel Israel’s spike in sales to China in 2012 and a $2.4 billion Chinese acquisition of an Israeli pesticide company in 2010—exaggerate fairly modest commercial numbers. Meanwhile, elaborate Israeli schemes to export Israel’s new natural gas to China and to have the Chinese build a rail alternative to the Suez Canal across the Negev Desert remain years from any possible real-world completion date.
Shipping gas to China and having the Chinese run an Israeli railroad that competes with Egypt’s Suez Canal are political projects masquerading as commercial ventures. In this sense, they are similar to a restoration in Sino-Israeli military ties that began in 2011 but whose true importance is difficult to measure. In 2012, Israel augmented the recent chorus of visits by generals, admirals, and spy chiefs from both countries by appointing a senior military figure to the position of ambassador in Beijing. Some observers assume the renewed prominence of security officials signals the emergence of a new clandestine arms trade between the two countries. With Syria enmeshed in violence, Chinese military strategists are in need of accurate intelligence and friendly ports of call as Chinese influence expands in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel is uniquely positioned to supply both needs.
If Israel and China have secretly returned to the arms business, it is far more likely to be taking place with covert U.S. permission than without. It is hard to imagine that within a decade of the Phalcon and Harpy scandals, Israeli leaders would so blithely disregard America’s hypersensitivity to the transfer of advanced weapons to China. If the military meetings are about sharing intelligence and port access, American officials who keep a careful eye on China’s naval ambitions have greater reason to be concerned. Were Chinese flotillas to make a regular practice of patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet would likely step up its own activity off of Israel’s shores, bringing the threat of conflict between the great powers to Israel’s doorstep.
Whatever impact the Arab Spring has had in stimulating China’s military collaboration with Israel, the upheaval has certainly caused Beijing and Jerusalem to adopt similar positions on regional crises—a development that takes on greater significance with China’s intent to ramp up its political involvement in the Middle East. In Egypt and Syria, Israeli preferences are not too different from China’s desire for stability and a return to the status quo. Neither country is enamored with America’s inchoate policy of hesitating to support opposition groups before rushing to abandon traditional allies like Hosni Mubarak. China and Israel both remain largely disinterested in actively embracing the peace process, despite Beijing’s past and present rhetorical embrace of the Palestinian cause. When it comes to Iran, Beijing and Jerusalem clearly disagree what if any level of outside pressure should be applied to Tehran. However, China’s leaders have responded to Israeli lobbying by becoming increasingly critical of Iran’s nuclear program.
While China is generally the lead actor in other avenues of Sino-Israeli relations, Israeli government and especially non-government programs have taken the lead in developing academic and cultural ties. These Israeli programs are responsible for a vast range of activities that include academic centers, cultural exhibits, translated literature, language courses, tourist initiatives, and expanded and informed media coverage. Together these activities have had great success in rebranding Israel in China as the Start-up Nation—a center of dynamic commercial innovation and economic development—rather than a religious conflict-zone. Although Beijing has opened a Confucius Institute in Tel Aviv and is planning a second such language and cultural center in Jerusalem, Israeli interest and understanding of China have largely developed independently. The allure of China’s economic growth makes Chinese languages the most popular (besides English) in Israeli universities, with over 800 college students studying them every year.
Although academic and cultural ties between China and Israel are far less likely to unnerve American officials than military and political initiatives, the former are uniquely capable of truly transforming ties between the three countries. The most fundamental obstacle to Sino-Israeli relations remains the fact that China and the East remain foreign concepts for Israelis whose personal and professional connections are often embedded in Europe and the Americas. With a vibrant American Jewish community and a shared democratic and Judeo-Christian heritage, Israel and the United States appear unlikely to back away from six decades of incredibly close bilateral ties.
Nevertheless, the Phalcon crisis that destroyed Sino-Israeli ties in 2000 did not come out of nowhere. American pressure on Israel stemmed from the deterioration of U.S. ties with China. Today, the two great powers are again divided by naval face-offs in the East and South China Seas, ever-growing trade disputes, and are one mistyped cyber-attack away from causing an amount of damage far greater than the 1999 embassy attack in Belgrade. If U.S. and China ties came undone, Israel can take solace in knowing that the complex reality of its modern ties with Beijing will ensure that any American pressure will not cripple ties as occurred in 2000. At the same time, the changing Sino-U.S. dynamics in the Middle East present valuable opportunities for Israel to leverage its ties with both countries.
China-Middle East Energy Relations Brookings Institute report, June 2013, on contrast between US growing domestic production of energy and China’s growing consumption of oil and gas from Iran and Iraq.
June 18, 2013
BEIJING – China called for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in Beijing Tuesday, as the rising global power seeks greater diplomatic influence in the Middle East.
“We need to redouble efforts to promote peace talks,” assistant foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said at the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, an event attended by diplomats, UN delegates, academics, and figures from the Palestinian and Israeli parliaments.
“The international community should be fully aware of the importance and urgency of settling the Palestinian question and make every effort to promote the resumption of peace talks,” he added, on the first day of the two-day conference.
Beijing has traditionally remained distant from Middle East affairs, although it has begun to take a more active diplomatic role in recent years, wielding its UN veto to scuttle some Western-backed proposals on Syria.
It now appears to be positioning itself closer to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which has long been strongly influenced by Washington.
Daniel Ben-Simon, a former Israeli parliamentarian who is a member of the Labor Party, said the growing influence of Beijing within Israeli-Palestinian affairs could bring a new dimension to relations in the region.
“They (Israelis) have been listening until now to the Americans. There has been one boss in the peace process. No other country has had a word — a strong word — like the Americans,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the conference.
“If the Chinese get involved, that will be very, very interesting because Israel and China are working together very closely economically.”
Ben-Simon also said China could build on its economic interests to develop “political influence” in the region.
But he said he was unclear if Beijing’s key aim was to take Washington’s place at the summit table.
“That is the question. Is there competition between these two superpowers?” he said.
China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has voiced support for the Palestinian push for full state membership in the United Nations.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu made state visits to Beijing during the same week last month.
Bassam al-Salhi, a representative of Abbas, said on a visit to Beijing last November that China could play a “special role” in the Middle East.
“The importance of this conference is that all the international community support Palestinian inalienable rights,” al-Salhi, the head of the Palestinian delegation to the conference, told AFP Tuesday. “China is (a) very important country to take its role in the peace process.”
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2010, causing US Secretary of State John Kerry to admonish both Netanyahu and Abbas to make the “tough decisions” needed to restart them.
China generally opposes what it calls intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.
In 2012, Israel imported $5.32 billion (3.8 billion euros) in goods from China and exported $2.74 billion, according to official figures.
China is also a major importer of Middle East oil, a key resource to power its expanding economy.
Breaches of resolutions should not be tolerated says China,urging Security Council to grant early approval for Palestine’s full membership
By UN information office, GA/PAL/1274
June 19, 2013
BEIJING — The United Nations Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, in a panel discussion this morning, considered the role of the United Nations in breaking the status quo while seizing the opportunities and avoiding the pitfalls.
The discussion brought together five pre-eminent panellists: Abdullah Abdullah, Head of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s Political Committee, from Ramallah; Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the Human Rights Council’s Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements and Member of the Committee against Torture, from Paris; Nawaf Salam, Lebanon’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York; La Yifan, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Mohammed Loulichki, Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Mr. ABDULLAH, noting China’s stepped-up engagement in the peace process, including through the four-point proposal presented by its President, said the peace effort launched by Secretary of State John Kerry of the United States faced a “near stalemate”, owing to Israel’s declared position. The United Nations had been dealing with the issue since 1947. Reviewing in detail the history of that engagement, he said that, with the start of the occupation, the Security Council had declared inadmissible, by resolution 242 (1967), the forcible seizure of territory. Thereafter, Israel’s actions in violation of that principle had since been considered by the General Assembly or the Security Council through the adoption of numerous resolutions.
Unfortunately, none had been implemented, he continued. That had led to the conclusion that the United Nations had become irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that no force could stop Israel from violating the United Nations Charter, the Organization’s resolutions or international law. That “sidestepping” of the United Nations had been reinforced after the Madrid Conference, when the United States had become the dominant figure in ushering in the Middle East peace process, he continued. However, that had not stopped the United Nations from considering violations of, or aggression by, the Government of Israel against the Palestinians. In fact, several investigative commissions had been established to consider the violations, and the International Court of Justice had also done so, in 2004.
More recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council had established its fact-finding mission to assess the impact of settlements on all aspects of Palestinian life, he said. Those bodies were reporting to the United Nations, but, unfortunately, no action was taken. When finally President Mahmoud Abbas had decided to apply for full membership of the United Nations, the Palestinians had faced resentment and rejection from the United States and Israel. The former had done its utmost to “spoil” the application, even taking punitive measures against the Palestinian National Authority. Israel, for its part, had approved more settlements, issued more restrictions and turned a blind eye to the escalation of settler violence. Moreover, it had stopped remitting tax revenues to the Palestinians. Nevertheless, those measures had not deterred the Palestinians, he said.
In light of the geopolitical situation, the United Nations must be in the forefront of peacemaking, he emphasized. It had already “set the stamp for how the peace process could proceed” through its resolutions, which included, in 2003, its endorsement of the road map, which specifically called for the cessation of settlement construction. On the other hand, Israel claimed that it wanted to negotiate without preconditions, while stating that neither Jerusalem nor refugees nor settlements nor the Jordan Valley were negotiable, as they were bases of military protection for Israel against outside attack. Above all, Israel wanted the new Palestinian State to recognize it as a home State of the Jewish people. Warning that a frozen peace process was as much a danger to the Israelis as to the Palestinians, he emphasized: “We have to extend a hand to Israel; there is a future for both of us.” However, peace could only be achieved through justice and security, and there could only be security if there were rights.
Ms. CHANET recalled the establishment in March 2012 of the independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Last July, the Council President had appointed three experts, who would be guided by the principles of “do no harm”, independence, impartiality, objectivity, transparency, confidentiality, integrity and professionalism.
The mission had addressed many requests for cooperation to the Government of Israel, but had received no answer, she said, adding that alternative arrangements had had to be made. To obtain direct, first-hand observations, the mission had held a series of meetings in Geneva and Jordan. It had also issued a public call for written submissions and had received 62. It had learned that Israeli journalists, academics, politicians, lawyers and other members of civil society who criticized the settlements were discredited in Israeli public discourse.
Turning to the facts identified by the mission, she said that a simple look at the map showed that the “mesh of constructions and infrastructures is leading to creeping annexation, preventing the establishment of a contiguous, viable Palestinian State and undermining the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”. As for the prevailing military occupation, she noted that article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited the occupying Power from transferring its own civilian population into the occupied territory, pointing out that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considered that a war crime. Palestinian ratification of that Statute “may lead to accountability for gross violation of human rights laws and serious violations of international humanitarian law”, she said.
In addition to the violation of the Palestinian right to self-determination represented by the settlements, she said, they also had to face violence by Israeli settlers, and some Palestinians had seen their houses demolished and their lands declared part of a military zone. The daily life of women, men and children was also problematic, as the settlements had been established for the “exclusive benefit” of Israeli Jews. They were maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she said, stressing that the system’s checkpoints and strict military controls undermined freedom of movement and impeded access to places of worship, property and natural resources, especially water.
She went on to stress the existence of discrimination in daily life, citing the distinct legal systems applied separately to Israeli settlers and Palestinians. The latter were routinely subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, including administrative detention, she said, noting that, in 2012, approximately 4,100 Palestinians had been in military detention, of whom 143 were between the ages of 16 and 18, and 21 under 16. From the time of their arrest, the detainees faced multiple violations of their rights to liberty, security and fair trial. Sixty per cent of Palestinian children served their sentences inside Israel, she added.
To change that, the mission had put forward several recommendations, among them: calling on Israel to cease all settlement activity without preconditions; urging it to ensure prompt remedy for all Palestinian victims of human rights violations; having Israel end violations linked to the presence of settlements, and ensuring full accountability for all settler violence; and ending the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinians.
Calling on all Member States to abide by their obligations under international law, and assume their responsibilities in their relations with a State breaching those norms, she also emphasized that private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and ensure that they did not have an adverse impact on the Palestinian people. Member States must take appropriate measures to ensure that businesses in their respective territories, or under their respective jurisdictions, conducted their activities in or related to the settlements, in full respect of human rights throughout their operations.
Mr. SALAM, discussing the Security Council’s role in Palestine’s application for statehood, said he had presided over the Council during that period. Explaining that there were specific criteria defining statehood under international law, he said they included: a permanent population whose inalienable rights were recognized by the United Nations; territory — in this case, Gaza and the West Bank — whose final borders could be subject to mutually agreed adjustment, although the fact that they had not been confirmed was no impediment to statehood; and the existence of proper institutions for self-government.
In the case of Palestine, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Peace Process had concluded that its governmental functions were now sufficient for a functioning State Government, he said, adding that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had confirmed those conclusions. Another criterion was that the applying entity must have the capacity to enter into relations with other States, he said, adding that it was evident that Palestine had missions and embassies operating in more than 100 countries. The Council also considered whether membership would violate previous agreements, he said, pointing out that the basis for Palestinian statehood preceded any Palestinian-Israeli agreements and could not be in violation of them. In fact, Palestinian statehood was rooted in General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), often labelled Israel’s “birth certificate”.
He went on to describe the many Security Council meetings held to consider that question, including at the ambassadorial and expert levels. The application had been referred to the Council’s Committee on the Admission of New Members, he said, adding that the Council had not rejected the application, although, it had not put it to a vote. The Council’s report had concluded that the Committee had been unable to make a unanimous recommendation, he said.
As for the events unfolding since, he said, the General Assembly had eventually resolved the issue, and the question of Palestinian statehood was no longer a question, but was now moot, or in plain language, obsolete. Hopefully, the Council, which was mandated to look into it, would consider the question favourably, tasked as it was with the duty, under the Charter, of helping a newborn State of Palestine, or any newly admitted State or observer, to put an end to occupation and secure its independence.
Mr. LA expressed regret that many of the hundreds of resolutions adopted by the United Nations on the question of Palestine had not been implemented, either fully or effectively, and that the peace process had stalled. Stability and the humanitarian situation had also eroded and the path to Palestinian statehood remained difficult. Looking forward, he outlined several challenges to be tackled by the United Nations. They included: resuming peace negotiations at an early date and making substantive progress; establishing an independent State of Palestine on the basis of United Nations resolutions, the principle of land-for-peace and the Arab Peace Initiative, which was key to the two-State solution and to solving the conflict; and settling the issue of Palestinian statehood.
Recalling that Palestine’s application had won understanding and respect following its admission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he said the General Assembly had granted it the status of non-member observer State, although the Security Council had not reached agreement on its full membership. He emphasized that peace and development went hand in hand, that a military approach was not the way out of the conflict, and that violence for violence’s sake would not benefit either side.
Given the major changes in the region, the urgent need to settle the conflict had become more prominent than ever, he stressed. To promote the just, peaceful and proper settlement of the Palestinian issue was in the interest of all the people of the Middle East and in line with the wishes of the entire international community. The Security Council should send delegations to the region in order to gain a better understanding of the situation. It should also approve at an early date Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership.
He went on to urge the Organization to continue its work in the humanitarian and development areas, and to help strengthen Palestinian governance. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and others had made positive contributions, and the world body should consolidate its internal resources to form synergies among all its entities in order to better assist the Palestinians. Hopefully, this twentieth-anniversary year since the signing of the Oslo Accords would be marked by positive contributions, he said.
Mr. LOULICHKI, noting that his delegation currently held a seat on the Security Council, called for a revival of collective international engagement towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Jerusalem, he stressed the importance of transforming a hybrid city into a bi-national one of bridges and cooperation and peace between the two sides, and among religions presently represented there.
Recalling that yesterday’s debate had centred on a one-State solution versus a two-State solution, he said increasingly influential figures from both sides were now saying it was time for the former. The vision of two States was the culmination of decades of war and negotiations, but reality and war had initially led to the dismissal of the two-State vision, and Israel alone had been established. Yet, Oslo and subsequent negotiations had led to the possibility of a practical two-State solution, although it was unfortunate that an absence of political will and visionary leadership had prevented a positive outcome.
The Palestinians could not be accused of not being a genuine partner for peace, he said, pointing out that it was the United States that had sponsored the two-State vision and added momentum to the idea around the world, thereby giving rise to genuine hope that efforts by the Obama Administration would lead to resumed negotiations and to the promised political solution. Yet, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, combined with Israel’s lack of engagement, had triggered pessimism about the two-State solution. Admitting failure would mean that the United Nations and the international community had been unable to deliver on a promise made 56 years ago to the Arabs, particularly the Palestinians.
Failure to reward the painful compromises made by the Palestinians with a solution based on United Nations resolutions would be a blow to the credibility of the United Nations, he warned. As for the appeal of a one-State solution, he said that, firstly, both sides had contemplated the idea, “so why not try it?” There were other reasons, but it was not a realistic solution because neither side was ready to accept it when walls had been built and land expropriated, causing resentment and frustration to grow.
Another issue was “political realism”, he said, explaining that neither side could impose the idea on the other. Palestinians would not remain a minority and Israelis were not ready to lose the Jewish identity of their State, so the idea of one State remained “intellectually attractive, but basically unrealistic, and ultimately unachievable”. Thus, there was no alternative than sticking to the two-State solution and trying to implement it as quickly as possible, he emphasized. The alternative was extremism and chaos.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said in the ensuing discussion that the fastest way to get to a one-State solution was to have a two-State solution. The problem was the Israeli authorities; as long as there was no independent State next door to them, they would never treat Palestinians as equals. Discussion of a one-State solution was merely an academic exercise reflecting frustration with the political stalemate, he said. Once there was an equal State next to Israel, the door would open to a new historical relationship. For example, no one would have thought reconciliation between Germany and France conceivable.
The foundation of an independent Palestinian State must be laid before the doors would open to a new relationship, he emphasized. Anything less would be a continuation of the Palestinian people’s subordination, whether inside the Green Line, in East Jerusalem, or inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
YIFAT BITTON, Associate Professor of Law from Israel, said she understood Mr. Mansour’s comment, adding that Israelis might be willing to discuss a two-State solution, if only because a one-State solution frightened them.
Other panellists also agreed, saying a two-State solution was the most durable one “at the end of the day”. The idea should be promoted and widely accepted internationally, particularly in Israel and the United States.
Also speaking were representatives of Ecuador, Comoros and Brazil.
The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace will reconvene at 3 p.m. today to conclude its work.
International community must play role in restarting peace talks, speakers stress as international meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace concludes
By UN department of public information
June 19, 2013
BEIJING — As the International Conference entered its final session this afternoon, previous speakers had laid the ground on the urgent need to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — with the international community’s help — or face the increasingly untenable and far-reaching consequences of inaction.
China’s Special Envoy on the Middle East Issue was the first to take the floor as participants gathered to consider the international community’s role in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, forging a durable peace in fulfilment of fundamental legal and humanitarian principles, and in satisfying the wishes of both Israelis and Palestinians.
WU SIKE, Special Envoy, acknowledged that the conflict was “both acute and complex”, saying it could not be resolved by the parties’ efforts alone. The international community had the inescapable responsibility to facilitate the peace process, he said, adding that, having visited the region recently, he could feel an even greater yearning on the part of the people for peace, and a greater willingness to resume negotiations.
On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, the international community was facing new realities in its efforts to promote peace, he said. China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, was working with the rest of the international community to promote the resumption of peace negotiations and to make its contribution to the achievement of peace and stability in the region.
Still, the peace process faced many obstacles, he said, adding that under such circumstances, the international community should make headway in the following areas: upholding justice by respecting the Palestinian demand for an end to the occupation, as well as their legitimate right to establish an independent and sovereign State; doing more to support the Palestinian economy and train its people; improving the security situation on the ground; promoting civilian exchanges and dialogue; and strengthening mechanisms for promoting peace.
In that connection, the international community should strengthen the role of the United Nations so as to ensure a secure environment for efforts to promote the peace process, he said. As a member of the international community, China actively supported international efforts to promote peace, and had always been a positive force in promoting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. China supported the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State on the basis of 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He said his country had provided assistance for Palestinian development with no strings attached. Last month, China had once again pledged to provide economic and technological assistance to Palestine, as well as and cash assistance for emergency humanitarian relief efforts. It had also pledged to train 1,000 Palestinian professionals over the next three years, and would extend its support to education and other areas.
ABDELAZIZ ABOUGHOSH, Palestine’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam, said that, unfortunately, the Government of Israel’s colonization settlement policy and the attendant violations had brought negotiations to a standstill. Despite all goodwill efforts by various international parties, such as the diplomatic Quartet, the United Nations and many others, to facilitate the resumption of the talks, all attempts had failed, owing to Israel’s refusal to stop its settlements policy and accept the two-State solution within the pre-1967 borders.
Citing recent attempts to restart negotiations by the United States, Europe and the President of China, he outlined the following Palestinian requirements for international promotion of meaningful negotiations: urging Israel to stop the colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and end the siege on Gaza; halting all kinds of financial and other support to Israel, mainly by removing tax advantages for financial support to settlements; and bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court to be held accountable for all crimes and humanitarian violations against Palestinians.
At the same time, he urged the international community to take immediate concrete steps to secure the release of Palestinians prisoners, including all those held without charge; help to establish a viable Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital; insist that Israel negotiate a prompt and just solution to the refugee question; end the Gaza blockade; and impose military, economic, social, cultural, sporting and other sanctions to compel Israeli compliance with international law, while implementing United Nations resolutions aimed at securing Middle East peace.
Israel’s actions to intensify its control of Palestinian lives, land and natural resources were eroding the possibility of a two-State solution, he said, declaring that “Palestinians are ready for lasting peace based on international law, and their positions are clear and known to the world”. They were ready to make tough concessions, once again, but “they cannot wait forever for their freedom”. Israel’s illegal actions must stop, he emphasized, saying the international community could and must play a role and hold Israel accountable. It was time to grant the Palestinians their long-awaited freedom.
YIFAT BITTON, Associate Professor of Law, Sha’arei Mishpat Law College, Hod HaSharon, Israel, based her remarks on a paper, entitled “Discrimination due to Arabness and Jewish-Arabness and the New Bridge for Peace for Israel and Palestine”, arguing that that reliance on the concept of “difference” in discrimination claims failed to acknowledge discrimination within groups. That point was exemplified by the de facto discrimination against Israel’s Mizrahi Jews — those originating from Arab or other Muslim countries — who were officially recognized as Jews, but faced discrimination in practice, although to a much smaller extent than Palestinians, the ultimate “others”. (The full text of the paper can be found on the website of the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights at http://unispal.un.org).
SCHLOMO MOLLA, former Member of Knesset, noted that the peace progress had been going on for 20 years, and hope had ended with Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by a Jew. “Our tragedy is Netanyahu,” he declared, adding that the Prime Minister was only a politician rather than a visionary Israeli leader. He was “all about daily survival” and never thought about Israel’s future, and that was the tragedy of Israelis. Most Israelis needed peace with Palestine, but Prime Minister Netanyahu, by himself, without the European and United States Governments, would not be looking for a solution. The Prime Minister’s strategy today was talks for talks’ sake, he said. “If Netanyahu doesn’t come up with serious negotiations within one year”, Tzipi Livni [Minister for Justice and Chief Negotiator on Palestinian Issues] would not remain in his Government.
He said the United Nations “has to play a very strong game in this issue”. It must accept the Palestinian State, for when Israel saw the Organization taking the Palestinians seriously, it should realize that something must be done. Thus, a way must be found to create the Palestinian State within the framework of the United Nations. Moreover, the Organization must ask Israel to release the more than 8,000 prisoners inside its jails, and do its best to unite the Palestinian people. Israel’s major concern was the separation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, he said. The United Nations must also ask the Israeli Government to remove the checkpoints, and non-governmental organizations must work to create a new environment and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians — people to people, professionals to professionals, youth to youth. Israelis were very concerned about a one-State solution, and they would never agree. And if they did, he said, would they be talking about apartheid in the West Bank? It was doubtful that they would be talking about living together.
NATHAN STOCK, Assistant Director of the Conflict Resolution Programme at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, recalled that the question of Palestine had been one of the central and earliest tests of the United Nations. However, in the aftermath of the October 1973 war, the United States had begun to supplant the United Nations as the principal broker between the two sides. Fears of a super-Power confrontation had been sparked in 1973, starting a trend of more direct involvement by the United States which continued today.
Having heard it said that “if you’re messing with Israel, you’re messing with the [ United States]”, he said the conflation of the two countries’ interests violated the sine qua non of an international system comprising sovereign States. No two countries were the same, nor could their interests align on every issue, he emphasized. The territories in question today, Jerusalem and the West Bank, were, according to a huge constituency, part of “Greater Israel” and an integral part of the Israeli State. Convincing Israel to compromise on those issues would always be more difficult than securing such territorial concessions as the Sinai peninsula, he said.
Yet, the political dynamics in the United States made it tougher to maintain the kind of engagement that had led to past territorial withdrawals, he continued, detailing his perceptions of Israel’s relations with past and present United States administrations. He said it was his belief that President Barack Obama would like to see a two-State solution and that Secretary of State John Kerry would like to make his mark by resolving the conflict. However, hopes of success would depend on President Obama deciding to use the full powers of his office to realize the creation of a Palestinian State.
He went on to say that, in either case, the status quo would not endure forever. Significant shifts were under way within the United States Jewish community regarding their views of Israel, with the new generation less likely to accept Israeli practices that were out of sync with their liberal values. That trend suggested that, in the coming decades, there might be a more robust, pro-peace Jewish political community in the United States. But, in the near term, President Obama must contend with the reality that any serious move to pressure Israel towards a meaningful withdrawal from the West Bank would be “extremely politically costly”.
If reasonable terms of reference were secured, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership should be open to negotiating with Israel, he said. However, it could not rely on the United States to “deliver” Israel, and it would be up to the Palestinians to change the status quo. That should entail four measures: the Fatah leadership should make every effort to reconcile with Hamas; the PLO should be prepared to take additional steps in the United Nations and other international forums to assert Palestinian sovereignty and exert pressure on Israel; it should insist on international law, including Security Council resolutions, as the reference point for settling the conflict; and a unified Palestinian leadership should begin to develop a broad-based strategy for popular mobilization and non-violent resistance.
In closing, he said the last 20 years had made clear that the Palestinians could not rely on the United States to provide the leverage they lacked. However, that did not mean they should shut the door to negotiations, he cautioned, stressing that they should remain willing to engage in talks over the creation of a State along the 1967 lines. At the same time, however, they must begin to move deliberately, and non-violently, to impose costs on Israel for the status quo, he said, warning that, without those measures, Israel was extremely unlikely to end the occupation.
A brief discussion ensued about the support of “Orientals” to the Palestinians, with speakers expressing divergent views, from both the floor and the podium. Participants heard that it was a very complex issue and not necessarily one for which solutions could be deduced from elections results or through references to support or lack thereof. There was “lots to do”, it was widely acknowledged, and at least the goal was a shared one.
Returning to issue of settlements, panellists insisted that, until they were removed from the West Bank, the international community must pressure Israel and insist on the removal of checkpoints in order to allow Palestinians to build new lives in an environment conducive to peace.
The Ambassador of Palestine to China said the debate had gone on for more than 65 years, during which time Palestinians had gone from one step to the next, from being terrorists to refugees, to forgettable people, to revolutionaries, to imposing their presence on the international community. Now all the world was behind the just Palestinian cause, but unfortunately, the United Nations had made beggars of the Palestinian people. “You divided Palestine into two States,” he said. “Where is the other State? This is your obligation […] to create this State.” Democracy and human rights were empty words when it came to the Palestinians. There had been some key positive changes over the years, but the day after, the politicians stepped back. Settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a national interest of the United States, but the Obama Administration, as had others before it, did not want to work seriously, he said.
LA YIFAN, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made a statement on behalf of the host Government, highlighting three ways to promote the peace process: stronger political will; stronger practical actions; and stronger support, given that the conflict was related to both international and regional peace and security. The international community should help the parties raise their sense of responsibility and urge them to be more positive, active and constructive about resuming negotiations. They must also be encouraged to eliminate the obstacles to peace. The Quartet should take substantive actions, he said, citing the efforts of the League of Arab States. He said his country expected the Palestinians and Israelis to narrow their differences through peace talks, he said, citing in particular the four-point proposal by President Xi Jinping. China’s hosting of the International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace was another effort in that regard, and the Government would work with the international community to play a constructive role.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, paid tribute to the people and Government of China for having made every effort to contribute to the Meeting’s success. He was also grateful for China’s energetic role in becoming more involved in seeking a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its good relations with both sides meant it was well-placed to move things in the right direction. He acknowledged the “very serious” effort exerted recently to try to remove obstacles from the path of peace and open the doors for a meaningful political process that would lead to the end of the occupation and to an independent State of Palestine.
The global consensus was the two-State solution, and every effort should be made to accomplish that objective, he continued. The Palestinians believed they had demonstrated a flexible and responsible attitude after the results of the November vote in the General Assembly. Yet, immediately after the overwhelming adoption of that historic resolution on Palestine — adopted by 138 votes in favour to 9 votes against — the other side had resorted to a series of illegal activities, first among them the announcements of more settlements, including the intention to build 11,500 units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in and around Jerusalem and including in the “E1” area.
Everyone, including the United States, said the settlements were illegal, illegitimate and an obstacle to peace and needed to be stopped, he went on, adding to that the Israel’s “hijacking” of Palestinian tax monies on goods arriving through Israeli ports. Such violations of the so-called Paris agreement were intended to blackmail the Palestinians and exert political pressure on them for something “we did legally at the UN”, he said, wondering who was helping to relaunch the peace process and who was not.
Israel refused to acknowledge that it was an occupying Power. If that was the Government’ position, which had become more extreme after the last election, what was the incentive to negotiate with them? They did not acknowledge or respect the global consensus on settlements and border issues. “So, what are we going to negotiate, and what are we going to accomplish if they are not willing to accept these fundamentals?”, he asked.
“We need a concrete signal that they will engage in negotiations to end the occupation,” he stressed. “‘Come and talk while we are expanding settlements,’ they say. ‘Come and talk, but we are changing the reality in East Jerusalem. Come and talk, but we will not abide by 1967 borders.’” There must be collective success in bringing Israel into compliance on those issues — settlements and borders — “and we expect you to show us the way”, he emphasized.
“We are ready and willing to negotiate as leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whether we become a full member [of the United Nations] or not,” he continued. But, if the process did not succeed, Palestinians expected the international community to show them the way out, how to do it differently. The situation was ripe for new kinds of General Assembly resolutions, calling for practical steps. To those who said Assembly resolutions were not binding, he asked how the majority call for specific measures could lack credibility.
Without consequences for the other side, the Palestinian people would be forced to live under occupation, he said, adding that it was up to Israel’s leaders. If they did not “do it the nice way” and take advantage of the moment, they should not expect to keep denying Palestinians their rights while expecting them to “turn the other cheek”. In the present historic moment, it was sincerely to be hoped that Israel would wake up and make the right choice, but if it did not, the Palestinian people would not accept a model of occupation such as that which had failed in South Africa, he stressed.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the discussions of the last two days should serve as a “wake-up call”. The next weeks would determine the “shape of things for years to come”, he added, emphasizing that there would be no return to “business as usual”. Last November’s General Assembly resolution 67/19 had created a new reality, and Palestinians were serious about using new opportunities. And urgent international efforts were under way to restart negotiations, which had been complicated by the latest spurt of Israeli settlement announcements.
Negotiations or any additional strategies under consideration had value, he said, as long as they eventually led to the strategic goal — the end of Israel’s occupation, a sovereign and independent State of Palestine on the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees. There would be no two-State solution without negotiations, but serious obstacles remained, such as the continuing settlement expansion. Urgent international efforts were needed to curb it, he said, adding that Palestinians needed to finalize their reconciliation.
He urged participants to inform their capitals that there should be generous support for Palestinian institutions, humanitarian and development needs, as well as practical steps to enforce international law. Pushing the parties into negotiations when conditions were not ripe could backfire, but “we don’t want to risk missing the, perhaps, last window of opportunity for the two-State solution”.