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 hands.

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 effectively guaranteed.

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 relations.

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 instability.

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 rights.


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 non-Muslims.

This necessitates a long-term process of broad, deep and detailed reform that would ensure capable and accountable government.

The 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 states.”

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 Europeans.

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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