EP Plenary: Prospects for the Two-State solution for Israel and Palestine
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Thank you, President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
This has been another difficult year with more than 120 Palestinians killed. Year 2022 is the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations started systematically counting fatalities in 2005, when measured on a monthly average.
It is also the deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank in 15 years, with 34 children killed by Israeli forces or settlers, with an overall record high settler violence.
We witnessed a wave of terror attacks across Israel, with more than 20 casualties as reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This was followed by more Israeli military operations and incursions in Palestinian cities.
We also witnessed another violent escalation in Gaza in August, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
We therefore call on the parties to exercise restraint and to do everything to prevent further escalation and to rebuild a path towards dialogue. Any use of force must be proportionate and in line with international law. The European Union, of course, condemns all acts of terrorism in the strictest terms.
Against this difficult background, the prospects for a resumption of genuine negotiations conducive to ending the occupation and achieving the two-state solution appear very distant.
There is, nonetheless, no credible alternative. The two-state solution remains the best way of bringing lasting peace, stability and equal rights to both people.
Therefore, the European Union is actively engaging with our partners in the Middle East, the United States and beyond to explore ways to revive the peace process.
In September, during the UN General Assembly High-Level Week in New York, we hosted a Ministerial roundtable marking the 20th anniversary of the Arab Peace Initiative. Importantly, the event was co-sponsored by the League of Arab States and Saudi Arabia. In this vein, the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), Sven Koopmans, will continue working with all our international partners to reopen a path towards a comprehensive regional peace. In light of Israel’s recent normalisation agreements with four Arab States, which the European Union supports, we are exploring possibilities to use these new contacts to increase momentum to the benefit of the Middle East Peace Process, too.
In October, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell co-chaired with the Israeli Prime Minister [Yaïr] Lapid the EU-Israel Association Council. At this meeting, the first in a decade, the European Union and Member States discussed with Israel how to develop strategic bilateral cooperation, but also passed a strong message on the European Union’s commitment to a two-state solution and the need to re-open a political horizon. High Representative/Vice-President Borrell was clear that unilateral actions, such as continuing settlement expansion and demolitions, must stop, in order to preserve the chances of a just and viable peace.
This will also be our message to the incoming Israeli government, which we hope will confirm the country’s full commitment to the shared values of democracy and rule of law, and with which we hope to engage in serious conversation on the conflict and the need to re-open the political horizon for the Palestinian population.
The European Union is now also strengthening our dialogue further with the Palestinian Authority. High Representative/Vice-President Borrell has invited the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki to the Foreign Affairs Council in January. It will be an opportunity to exchange on how the European Union can best support the Palestinian Authority and the [Middle East] Peace Process, but also discuss the necessity of organising the postponed national Palestinian elections and take steps forward towards Palestinian unity.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-234756
Thank you President and thank you Honourable Members [of the European Parliament] for the opportunity to exchange on this matter.
I should come to a direct question which was put to me on Palestinian textbooks.
The European Union has funded an independent study of Palestinian textbooks against defined international benchmarks based on the UNESCO Standards on Peace, Tolerance and Non-Violence in Education. The research by the independent and internationally recognised Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI) was published in June of last year.
The analysis revealed a complex picture. The report was shared with the European Parliament and Services briefed various Committees of the European Parliament.
The independent assessment carried out by the GEI provides an objective basis for the European Union’s engagement with the Palestinian Authority on education reform and changes to the curriculum that are essential with a view to bring about the full adherence to UNESCO Standards on Peace, Tolerance, Coexistence and Non-Violence in all Palestinian educational material.
The European Union has stepped up its engagement with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the study with the aim to ensure that further curriculum reform addresses problematic issues in the shortest possible timeframe, and that the Palestinian Authority takes responsibility to screen textbooks not analysed in the study.
In parallel, the European Union will encourage the relevant authorities in Israel, and the Palestinian authorities, to engage in dialogue to ensure coherence with UNESCO Benchmarks on Peace, Tolerance and Non-Violence in Education in their curricula, ideally through joint effort, the exchange of experts and in full transparency.
To conclude this, I can reassure you that the European Union will remain actively engaged and working towards the relaunch of the two-state solution. We continue to call on the parties to take concrete steps toward relaunching a political horizon and offer our every support towards this end.
The European Union will continue to defend the viability of the two-state solution, respect of international law and continue to advocate against any unilateral actions.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-234758