Both the Palestinians and Israel should know that the world will not bankroll
Palestinian Authority state-building forever, and that if progress is not made
the donations will stop, Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told The
Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
“The donors will not be ready to keep funding
Palestinian state-building much longer if we are not seeing a political
horizon,” said Eide.
Norway heads the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which is
the international group of donors scheduled to meet next month in New York on
the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.
Eide said it was
important for both sides to know – as they have just restarted negotiations –
that the world was not willing to provide a blank check.
“I think this is
important for the Palestinians to know, because if anyone there thought they
could sort of just fall back to the comfort of an internationally subsidized
state-building endeavor, that may be wrong,” he said in an interview. “And I
think that it is important for some people on the Israeli side – living in
reasonable comfort [given] that cooperation with the pseudo-state in the West
Bank is quite good – to know that this cannot continue forever.”
who stated he was no starry-eyed optimist when it comes to the Middle East peace
process, said he was “somewhat more encouraged” about the prospects of
successful negotiations than he was before he arrived for two days of meetings
“There are two basic reasons for my relative optimism this
time compared to previous rounds,” he said.
One was his sense, after
speaking to leaders on both sides, that Ramallah and Jerusalem both understood
that “this might be the last opportunity for a two-state solution according to
the Oslo paradigm.”
If this round fails, he said, “there will probably
not be another round and something else will happen.... I think we are at the
point where we will either move ahead or backward to a very different
Eide said that the second reason for his optimism had to do
with the “dramatic events everywhere in the region, from Egypt to Syria, Lebanon
and the apocalyptic terror we are seeing all around.”
pointing out the irony, he said that when looking at a map of the Middle East,
“there are two small points of land that are more peaceful” – Israel and the West Bank.
the Israeli and Palestinian leaders look beyond their practical difficulties at
the strategic picture, I think they have one point in common – they are on the
same side when it comes to the big picture on Iran, Syria and the Muslim
Brotherhood. Both Ramallah and Jerusalem want to reduce the influence of
One of the ways to reduce outside influence is to “try and
get the classical conflict into a more positive phase,” he said.
said that, Eide acknowledged that “there is a long list of problems that we all
know; there are a lot of concessions to make.”
The Norwegian foreign
minister said he had been misquoted by his country’s press before his arrival as
saying that Israel’s release of Palestinian terrorists was not “an especially
He stressed to the Post that he believed the exact
opposite – that the release of 26 terrorists was a “very important and very
difficult concession which I know was hard to make.”
something that European leaders do not often articulate, he added: “I also think
that the Palestinians must now be ready to make some concessions, first and
foremost on contributing a sense of security for the people of
Eide spoke to the Post after visiting Gaza, where he stressed he
did not meet anyone from Hamas.
The foreign minister said the rapid
changes in Egypt that led to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s deposed
president, Mohamed Morsi, had clearly weakened Hamas to the benefit of the
“A year ago we feared that the center of gravity
was slowly moving from the West Bank to Gaza. Now it is clearly back in the West
Bank, where it should be,” he said, adding that this was another reason to move
purposefully now in the negotiations.
Eide said there was “deep
frustration” in Gaza, as the living conditions there – following the
developments in Egypt – had gotten worse.
“Until a few months ago they
did get some goods through the tunnels and over Rafah, and now they are not
getting that,” he said. “While I do recognize that there [is a] certain
improvement when it comes to Israeli policy [regarding goods allowed in], there
is still a long way to go to compensate what they lost from Egypt.”
prices going up, problems of garbage collection, sewage and a lack of water,
Eide said people in Gaza had a “sense of living in a prison” that was even
greater than before.
“I think that could erupt into violence,” he said.
“What I am afraid of is that people’s frustrations will increase, and a really
weakened Hamas might try to take advantage of the frustration and try to gain
credibility by doing something they should not do.”