Brussels, Belgium – On Monday, 22 January, the EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss the situation in Gaza and its implications for the region. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki joined Monday’s discussions separately. The main aim was to discuss a plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve peace in the region. Blocs’ foreign ministers argued that the creation of a Palestinian state is the only credible way to reach this goal.
Ahead of the Brussels meeting, the EU’s external service (EEAS) sent a discussion paper to its 27 member states suggesting a road map to peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to the non-paper, a series of steps should be taken to achieve peace in the Gaza Strip, to establish an independent Palestinian state, to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world, as well as to guarantee security in the entire region.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell specified in an accompanying letter to member states that the proposal is to “elaborate, with practical proposals, on the agreed principle that only a political, sustainable, long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will bring peace to the two peoples and stability to the region”.
The plan assumes that the future peace process should lead to an independent Palestinian state “living side by side” with Israel and “full normalization” of relations between Israel and the Arab world. It states that Palestinians will need a revitalized political alternative to Hamas, while Israelis will need to find the political will to engage in meaningful negotiations towards the two-state solution.
A key condition of the EU’s future peace process should be a “Preparatory Peace Conference” comprising the EU, the US, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, and the United Nations. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), rather than Hamas, which has ruled the strip since its 2007 takeover and is included in the terrorist list by the EU and the US. According to the proposal, an essential element of the Peace Plan should be security assurances for Israel and the future independent Palestine, provided that both recognize each other diplomatically.
However, the prerequisite for progress on this issue will be a change in Israel’s attitude. While the EU member states – along with the United States – believe that the creation of a Palestinian state remains the only viable way to secure a lasting peace, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Thursday, 18 January, repeatedly rejected such an idea.
He reaffirmed a hard line against any Palestinian state and expressed his readiness to continue the military campaign in Gaza aimed at crushing Hamas and freeing all hostages.