The snowball effect of Brazil’s recognition of a Palestinian state on other
South American countries has led to enormous speculation whether that snowball
will cross the Atlantic and roll through Europe.
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Will Norway, for
instance, a country a US diplomat in a WikiLeaks published cable said some
Israeli officials began characterizing in 2007 as the most anti- Israel in
Europe, follow much of South America and recognize a Palestinian state? And then
will it be followed by other sharply critical states in Europe – perhaps Sweden,
Portugal or Ireland? Absolutely not, Jonas Gahr Store, Norway’s foreign
minister, told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview this week, speaking
– of course – solely for Norway.
At least not now.
“We have the
ambition of recognizing a Palestinian state when that state is ready to be a
real state,” Store said in the lobby of the King David Hotel, immediately after
meeting opposition leader Tzipi Livni. “We want to recognize facts and not
ambitions. That is as of January 2011.”
Store said the Norwegians, who
recently earned Israel’s ire by upgrading the PA’s status in Oslo from
representation to delegation, “are not in the business of recognizing,” and
recognition alone is “not going to change the facts on the ground.”
that position, he added, was valid as long as there was still a diplomatic
process. “But if that process will enter a dead end, then I guess the climate
can change throughout Europe, and we already see tendencies in that
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Store said that initiatives such as the Palestinian drive to
get world recognition of statehood sap diplomatic energy and divert attention.
“I think all energy now should be focused on negotiations,” he
“Every activity that goes beyond that can derail our
Store, whose country – again, according to the WikiLeaks
cable – saw the Oslo process as a defining national moment and “revels in its
self-described role as moral super,” warned against believing that the status
quo can last forever.
“The status quo in the peace process won’t be a
status quo in relation to the rest of the world, because there is a clear
expectation that this conflict will be ended, that there will be a peace treaty
and a state – a two-state solution,” he said. “I want to be very direct in that
message: that if this drags out, you will have more of these initiatives coming
up that you have described.”
ONE OF the initiatives that is more
significant than the recognition of a Palestinian state by countries like
Uruguay and Chile is a growing tendency among the countries that channel
hundreds of millions of dollars into PA coffers each year, the so-called donor
countries, to ask whether they should keep footing the state-building tab for a
state that seems nowhere on the horizon.
This was an issue raised during
Store’s meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni.
the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee made up of donor countries, and itself gives more
than 120 million euros for institution building each year. All told, since 2006
the PA has received some $1.8 billion a year in foreign aid, making the
Palestinians the largest per capita recipients of aid dollars in the
But this money is not considered humanitarian aid, it is aid with
a goal – building a Palestinian state. But what if, donors are now asking, that
state doesn’t come into being any time soon? How long can they be expected to
provide the funds for a state that may not be established? No one, at this
point, is talking about the international community walking away from
financially supporting the PA. But it is a threat being hinted at, and it is a
threat aimed both at Israel and the PA.
To Israel the message is clear:
If you don’t create a state soon, we – the donor community – may withdraw
financial support and you, the occupying force, will have full economic
responsibility for the West Bank and Gaza. Have fun.
Indeed, more than a
few voices are being raised in Europe asking why European governments are
funding the occupation.
And to the PA the prospect of losing $1.8 billion
a year could be seen as rod nudging it toward the negotiations it has spurned
since Netanyahu took office in March 2009.
Asked about the possibility
that the donor countries might scale back their contributions, Store said “the
immediate purpose for us is to stay the course. The focus of the donors support
group is to the program of the reforms of [PA] Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad. I
think it is agreed in the group, Israel included, that this is the right
strategic way to support much needed reforms. The progress has been commendable,
so I really am focused on completing that job, supporting that program to the
The end line is this August, when Fayyad has said the
institutions will be ready and in place for statehood.
The donors are
scheduled to meet both in April and again in the summer.
“Beyond that I
wouldn’t speculate,” Store said. “The point I have made on some occasions is
that this financial support is not humanitarian, it is not antipoverty, it is
It is our political contribution to create the institutions
that would be transparent and representative for a future Palestinian state. If
that vision for some reason completely collapses or reaches a dead end, that
argument will be challenged, and we will keep hearing questions like why are we
continuing to fund an occupation.
But that is a debate I choose to say is
for a different period. We are not there, and I hope we don’t get
Nevertheless, he said he has heard these arguments “floating
around,” as the world is in a financial crisis, in the midst of donor fatigue
and as there is a great deal of competition internationally for development
The bottom-up approach to peacemaking – building the institutions
to accept a state once it is declared – “needs to be met by a top-down process,”
MUCH OF the criticism of the Oslo process over the years has
been that it was a “top-down” approach, meaning that the leaders signed an
agreement, but that hearts, minds and institutions on the ground were not
prepared to accept that agreement.
Netanyahu has said that this process
needed to be complemented by a “bottom-up” approach, what he often refers to as
What Store and apparently some of his European colleagues
are hinting is that the bottom-up process is working fine, but the top-down
process has stalled, and one can’t expect the bottom-up process to continue if
there are not significant negotiations at the top.
“If there is a dead
end on the topdown, it will eventually influence the bottom-up,” he
Asked if the process was not already at a dead end, Store said that
both Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in September they would give
themselves a year, and US President Barack Obama said at the UN that there could
be a Palestinian state by the next UN General Assembly in
“Much here will be focused on August and September,” he said,
pointing out that Fayyad’s plan for building the institutions for statehood is
slated for completion in August.
Asked whether he felt the Palestinians
were interested at all in negotiations, or perhaps felt that they could get more
without them, hoping the world might step in and impose a solution, Store said
the Palestinian leadership knows “that the only way to end the conflict is
“I think we have this historic window now of
having political leaders committed to nonviolence, to democracy, to
negotiations, to the rule of law, to basic Western standards,” Store said. “Let
us hope we can seize this opportunity. These other initiatives, you know, will
not go away, but in order to make them less dominant, let us move on with the
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