Key Israelis urge Europe to back Palestinian cause

 

SOME 20 leading Israeli leftists have signed a petition urging European leaders to support Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

The petition, delivered yesterday to European ambassadors based in Israel, said UN endorsement of Palestinian statehood would not harm Israeli interests. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech in Washington and the sweeping support he received from the US Congress shows that the peace process has reached its end,” the statement said, stressing that Israel has a choice between recognising a Palestinian state or a renewed wave of violence.

Among those signing the petition were the former speaker of the Knesset parliament, Avraham Burg, former foreign ministry director general Alon Liel, a Nobel laureate, writers and academics.

Mr Liel said he was worried about Israel becoming an apartheid state if the diplomatic stalemate continued. “I think that if there is no vote in September on recognising a Palestinian state, we shall find ourselves sliding even more rapidly into the slippery slope of a shared state, which I view as a true catastrophe.”

The signatories argued that given the mutual suspicions between the sides and current foot-dragging, a Palestinian declaration of independence was not just a right, but also a positive, constructive step.

The petitioners said that, as Israeli citizens, they will support a Palestinian declaration of statehood based on the 1967 lines, with agreed land swaps. The petition also called for Gaza , which is controlled by Hamas, to be included as part of a future Palestinian state as long as it is ruled by a Palestinian leadership that recognises Israel’s existence.

The petition followed weekend surveys in the Israeli newspapers that showed solid support for Mr Netanyahu’s hawkish speech to Congress, and a 13 per cent rise in his popularity compared to recent polls taken before his trip to the US.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians are not seeking to isolate Israel on the international stage, but will pursue their unilateral drive for UN recognition of statehood unless peace talks resume. “We do not want to isolate Israel or to delegitimise it. On the contrary, we want to co-exist with it,” he said.

Speaking in Doha ahead of today’s meeting of Arab leaders to discuss the diplomatic deadlock, Mr Abbas said negotiations remained the best option as far as the Palestinians were concerned.

“We will review the steps we will take – persisting with negotiations as the fundamental way to achieving a resolution,” he said. “If we fail in reaching this solution, then we confirm that we will go to the United Nations.”

The Palestinians are expected to ask the UN general assembly in September to endorse an independent state, even without signing a peace agreement with Israel. It is expected a large majority of UN member states would vote in favour of such a resolution. Both Mr Netanyahu and US president Barack Obama have criticised such a move, arguing that bilateral negotiations are the only way to end the impasse.