Europe and Israel – Partners for Peace
By Silvan Shalom, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
After almost three years of unrelenting Palestinian violence and terrorism, hope appears to be returning to the Middle East and to the lives of the common citizen Jew and Arab alike. The new climate of accommodation – a direct outgrowth of the strategic and geopolitical realities created by the resolute response to 9/11 and the removal of Saddam Hussein – has terrorism on the defensive, while the forces of moderation and stability enjoy renewed momentumover those of tyranny and fear.
Israel looks to Europe asa natural partner in the effort toseize this opportunity to bring genuine and lasting peace to our region. Israel and Europe share a common cultural and social heritage, common values, and a host of shared interests in all spheres. Our close geographic proximity, intimate trade relations and shared commitment to democratic values and institutions, as well as our shared desire to see Israel secure and the Middle East transformed from a region of war and violence into one of prosperity and stability, all combine to create a fundamental unity of purpose between us, more profound and lasting than any specific policy differences.
I will be meeting this Monday with all my European counterparts as part of Israel’s effort to promote this shared agenda. Israel is convinced that Europe can and must be a genuine partner in the US-led drive for peace currently underway, and has much to contribute and to gain from its success. How can this potential be realized?
Firstly, there is a need to acknowledge that there are no shortcuts on the road to peace.
The experience of the past ten years has taught us that no peace agreement can survive if hostile elements are allowed to continue to pursue their agenda of hate and destruction. This is why the demand for the dismantlement of the Palestinian terrorist organizations is included as the key Palestinian obligation in the first phase of the roadmap.
As co-sponsors of the performance-based Roadmap within the framework of the Quartet, the policy implications for Europe are clear: Europe must hold the Palestinian Authority to its commitment to confiscate weapons and dismantle the terrorist organizations; Europe must act within its own jurisdiction to outlaw Hamas and Islamic Jihad along with the other Palestinian terrorist organizations, and to cut off all avenues for funding; and Europe must reinforce these steps by working with the new Palestinian leadership to build viable social infrastructures that will actually serve the Palestinian people rather than the campaign of hate against Israel.
The recent decline in terrorist attacks against Israelis as a result of the self-declared Palestinian truce has led some to believe that there is no need to follow through on this cardinal aspect of the roadmap. This is a mistake. Leaving Hamas and the other terrorist organizations intact will hold the lives of our citizens and the entire peace effort hostage to the whims of terrorists.
Secondly, those states and other elements who fund and sponsor terrorism must also be challenged. It is untenable that states such as Iran and Syria, alongside well-known elements from within the Palestinian Authority, should continue to enjoy the fruits of international legitimacy while they actively pursue policies designed to undermine and derail the road map.
In the new regional environment in the Middle East there is no room for the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, for the safe haven granted by Syria to the Palestinian terrorist organizations, or for the sponsorship of Hizbullah. Nor can their be any tolerance for Iran’s continued and active sponsorship of terrorist actions against Israel or its quest for Weapons of Mass Destruction which would threaten not only Israel but the entire Middle East and Europe as well. We are encouraged by recent signs that the traditional European position on these matters is coming under review, but there is still much that must be done.
Thirdly, Israel looks today to Europe to lead the way in fostering a new language of acceptance, both in the Palestinian arena and the broader regional and international context. For too long, the Middle East has been dominated by a discourse of violence and intolerance.If our peace efforts are to have any chance of success, this culture of hate must be replaced by a culture of peace. The new Palestinian leadership has publicly committed itself to end the officially-sponsored incitement against Israel. We are encouraged by the decline in incitement in recent days, but much more still needs to be done. We look to Europe to assist the Palestinian Authority in these efforts.
The time has also come for Europe to take the lead in ridding the UN of anti-Israeli committees and one-sided resolutions that serve only to perpetuate the conflict. Working to restore Arab diplomatic ties with Israel and to bring to an end the rampant incitement against Israel in the Arab world is yet another area where Europe’s commitment to building a viable and lasting peace can and should be deployed. Establishing an international climate in which citizens are taught by the example of their leaders not to hate but to acknowledge and accept their neighbors is an essential element in transforming the destructive patterns of the past into constructive patterns for the future.
Finally, Europe can make a unique contribution to peace through bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the civil sphere. European-led projects to build civil society, to promote job creation, to encourage foreign investment and to build strategic economic and social capacities in critical areas such as water management, health and education all these are critical linchpins of the better future we seek.
Israel is ready to do its share in promoting this agenda for peace. We wish to work together with our partners in Europe to ensure that the present opportunity for peace is not squandered. The peoples of both the Middle East and Europe will all benefit if we succeed.