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What if the UN recognised an independent Palestinian state?


What if the UN recognised an independent Palestinian state?


After decades of Israeli occupation, years of violent intifadas and failed peace efforts, the Palestinians prepare to seek UN recognition as an independent state. For the Palestinians, it’s a race against time while Israel builds more settlements in the West Bank that could leave a future Palestine in tatters.

Time is not on the side of Israel either, as the faster growing Palestinian population could turn the Jewish state into an apartheid state.

Israel bought some time with its so called separation barrier, cutting suicide bombings. It contends there remains no credible negotiating partner with the territories still divided between Hamas and Fatah rule.

And with rockets still fired from Gaza, could UN recognition force peace talks or further complicate the situation? What should Europe’s role be now, especially as the US heads into a presidential election likely to put any bold peace effort on ice?

Chris Burns, host of The Network: “Wired in to this edition of The Network is Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union. From Jerusalem, Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And from Paris, Christian Malard, commentator on the Middle East and a reporter for France 3.’‘

Chris Burns: Let me open this up to all of you starting with Mme Shahid. This question: What would be the impact of UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state? Would it help or hurt the Peace process?’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘I think it’s the only way to protect the peace process. You said it in your introduction, we are in a race against time because in practice, settlements, bypass roads, the wall, after 44 years of military occupation of the occupied territories is eating up the space that will become one day a Palestinian state, so I think it’s the best way to protect the two state solution.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Mr Regev what are your thoughts on this?’‘

Mark Regev: ‘‘I think the only way to move forward in peace and reconciliation is through direct negotiations and the trouble with this UN proposal by the Palestinian leadership is that it diverts attention away from what is the real solution, which is Israelis and Palestinians sitting face to face and negotiating peace.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Mr Malard what are the Europeans doing about this? Are they trying to stop this from happening or are they allowing it to go ahead?’‘

Christian Malard: ‘‘I think President Sarkozy will try to go ahead because I think President Sarkozy, like most people, thinks it’s time to break the status quo. The situation is unbearable, it has lasted for too long and it is time for both Israeli and Palestinians to show political will, political courage to move forward and end this conflict which is the cancer of the Middle East, which has brought a lot of metastasis, which has for name Hamas, Hezbollah and other things.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘What is the role that Arab Spring is playing in all of this? Could UN recognition be a way to cause more unrest either against the Palestinian government or against the Israeli occupation?’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘It is unthinkable that new relations can be established with the Arab world if there is still a conflict where the Palestinians are the only ones who do not enjoy freedom, and I would like to say to Mr Regev that we have been negotiating for 20 years with different Israeli governments and things are becoming worse, not better, that’s why we’re going to the UN, in order to pursue better negotiations.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Thank you Mme Shahid. Mr Regev, how much are you worried about there being a major upheaval‎ in the territories?’‘

Mark Regev: ‘‘I would ask Mme Shahid, after 20 years of negotiation, we’re all frustrated that there hasn’t been any movement, but is it all really our fault? Was it Israel that said ‘no’ at Camp David to Prime Minister Barak’s very far reaching proposals? Was it Israel that said no in 2008 to Prime Minister

Olmert who said basically ’67 borders plus swaps and he agreed to split Jerusalem? I think you should at least accept some responsibility for the failure of the Palestinian track.’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘Yes but the military occupation too has a responsibility.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘What do you say to that Mr Regev?’‘

Mark Regev: ‘‘I’d say that Israel is ready today, and we have been for the last two and a half years, to immediately start negotiations to deal with all the core issues of the conflict: settlements, refugees, security, legitimacy. The trouble has been the Palestinian leadership refuses to talk to Israel and I would ask them: How do you expect to make peace if you refuse to talk to Israel?’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the truth Mr Regev, but we’ll give Mr Malard a chance to speak and I’ll come back to that.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Mr Malard, how much are you concerned that a push for UN recognition of a Palestinian state could actually cause more trouble?’‘

Christian Malard: ‘‘It can bring trouble, but at the same time, I think everybody should think about bringing back on the table the Arabic Peace Plan of March 2002 in Lebanon in Beirut. I think it’s not that bad. When you have the whole Arabic world, 23 countries recognising, finally, that the state of Israel has the right to exist in frontiers and at the same time, everything can be put on the table and discussed. I think we should go back to that.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘But going back to the table Mr Regev, shouldn’t Israel negotiate not only with the Palestinian authority but also with Hamas, as Israel did with the PLO when that was considered a terrorist organisation?’‘

Mark Regev: ‘‘We’re willing to negotiate peace with anyone who wants to live with us in peace, and as you know, Hamas is considered not just by Israel, but by the European Union, by the Canadians, by the Americans, by the Japanese, by the Australians as an illegitimate terrorist organisation. Even the United Nations does not have a political dialogue with Hamas. Unless Hamas changes and reforms and becomes in favour of peace.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Mme Shahid let me pitch that to you. How can Mr Abbas negotiate a peace settlement without Hamas on board?’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘Unfortunately, Mr Netanyahu is not interested in negotiating. I will say that when we will have a referendum about the results, Hamas will say its opinion, and we are in the conciliation with Hamas, but I would like to say that what we are doing in the UN is not an alternative to negotiation, it’s a way to protect our rights to borders, to a state, to Jerusalem.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Mr Malard, what should the Europeans be doing right now to get both sides back to the table? What is it going to take to get a breakthrough?’‘

Christian Malard: ‘‘Well i know that president Sarkozy tries to have all his partners of the European Community, the 27, to talk on the same voice as far as this vote is going to be concerning them on the 21st of September. But at the same time, I would like to add one thing. I trust Mr Abbas to negotiate with Israel. I don’t trust Hamas. As long as Hamas is playing this very bad game with Iran which is barking in the courtyard and all that, it’s no good, so I think we need to have a strong Palestinian state with Mr Abbas. Everybody must help Mr Abbas and work on a discussion with Mr Netanyahu and after we will see what Hamas is doing.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Very quickly for all three of you, do you see Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas as potential peace partners or not? Mr Malard?’‘

Christian Malard: ‘‘Yes I agree, I see them, and at the same time i would like to add very quickly, the more time we spend not negotiating, the more time we bring ingredients to a wider conflict where we have other people who have nothing to do with the Israeli Palestinian problem… it’s time Israel and Palestinians go to the table and negotiate.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Thank you Mr Malard. Mr Regev?’‘

Mark Regev: ‘‘My Prime Minister wants a peace agreement, he wants a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians. He’s been calling since day one for the resumption of peace talks. I think it’s the time the Palestinian side picked up the ball and came to negotiate. They can always find an excuse to not negotiate. I ask them to show leadership and come and negotiate. How do they expect to solve those very difficult issues without talking?’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘Thank you Mr Regev. And now Mme Shahid?’‘

Leila Shahid: ‘‘I think i said already that we have been talking for 20 years. If we’re going to the UN and asking the UN member states and the EU to help us, it’s because we have reached no results after 20 years of negotiations. I mean 20 years with all seven Israeli Prime Ministers. It’s about time the international community took its responsibilities and for the EU, from where I speak, there are official positions that are the positions of the 27 member states that recognise the borders, East Jerusalem, the illegality of settlements and it’s time to recognise the state and it is the moment of truth for everybody.’‘

Chris Burns: ‘‘The moment of truth. Thank you all for joining us. We’re out of time for now. I would like to thank our guests Leila Shahid, Marc Regev and Christian Malard. And I’m Chris Burns and until next time, thanks for connecting with the Network.’‘

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