What will Europe do in September? The question is of genuine importance not only
because in order for any UN General Assembly resolution recognizing a
Palestinian state to carry moral and political authority, it must garner the
support of leading Western democracies, but also because membership in the UN
(the real goal of the Palestinians) depends on Security Council approval – and a
third of the seats in the UN Security Council are currently in European
If push comes to shove, the US will veto the Palestinian move, but
a European Union stance opposing a unilateral declaration of independence will
send a clear message that peace cannot be imposed; it must be built. EU foreign
ministers meeting in Poland next week will have the unique opportunity to send
just such a message.
Peace-building in its neighborhood is something of
which Europe can rightly be proud. Since the end of the Cold War, the EU has
played a pivotal role in transforming the poor, authoritarian, war-torn
countries of the former Soviet bloc and the Balkans into functioning market
economies and democratic states.
It has done so by taking a cautious,
long-term view of peace-building, and by insisting that true peace and security
depend on neighbors becoming the kind of states where stable democracy, the rule
of law, respect for human rights and peaceful resolution of disputes are
Indeed, Europe would only recognize the new
states that emerged from the breakdown of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia on
condition that they respected democratic principles, tackled corruption,
guaranteed human and minority rights, accepted arms control, and committed
themselves to good relations with their neighbors.
To ensure compliance
with these standards, the EU links all incentives at its disposal – diplomatic
support, access to its Single Market, and billions of euros in economic aid – to
proven attainment of responsible government and liberal values. Under the Lisbon
Treaty, the EU is bound to uphold and promote these values in its foreign
GIVING A European hand to a Palestinian unilateral declaration
of independence at this time would amount to a betrayal of these values, as well
a colossal political error that could well result in even greater regional
As a member of the Quartet and the largest aid donor to the
Palestinians, the EU is formally committed to a negotiated solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on two functioning and democratic states,
living side by side in secure and recognized borders.
True, Europe has
endorsed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s Reform and
Development Plan, but the Fayyad plan focuses on a relatively narrow range of
fiscal and administrative reforms.
In reality, the PA remains
precariously weak, scoring poorly on all major indicators of democracy, the rule
of law, civilian control of armed groups, corruption and human
Building a functioning Palestinian state willing and able to live
in peace with its neighbors requires overcoming the destructive legacy of Yasser
Arafat’s authoritarian rule, a culture of armed struggle, the disruptive role of
radical outsiders (particularly Iran and Hezbollah), and intra-Palestinian
violence. It must also reduce aid dependence, ensure that economic growth
outstrips the high Palestinian birthrate, and end Palestinian incitement against
This necessitates a long-term process of broad, deep and
detailed reform that would ensure capable and accountable government.
EU’s own security strategy states that “the quality of international society
depends on the quality of the governments that are its foundation. The best
protection for our society is a world of well-governed democratic
Truer words have seldom been written, or unanimously endorsed by
the leaders of an international organization. And they are just as valid for the
security and well-being of Israelis and Palestinians as they are for
The writer is head of political development at the Institute
for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (IDC); a
visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and a member of
the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Executive Committee.
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