security fence 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
European parliamentarian Jana Hybaskova of the Czech Republic told The Jerusalem Post that she understands that the security fence saves lives and that the pre-1967 boundaries of the state are an "armistice line" and not a "border."
Her words ran counter to the harsh language used against Israel in a draft EU policy report on east Jerusalem released to the media last week, which slams Israel's activities in east Jerusalem, including construction of the fence, as "illegal" and damaging to the peace process.
Hybaskova said that she knew nothing of the report and knows only what she has learned here on the ground during her five-day visit, with 11 other parliamentarians from the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Israel.
"I have seen east Jerusalem but not the report," said Hybaskova, who chairs the committee. It's the committee's first visit since the EU expanded its membership from 15 to 25 nations in 2004, she said.
While clarifying that she speaks for herself, and is not representing EU policy as a whole, she told the Post that she believes the "1967 border is an armistice line and not an internationally recognized border." She understands "the general European opinion is that the fence should follow the 1967 line," but she said there were security and topographical concerns that could cause it to be moved off that course.
"I strongly believe and hope the fence will be removed," said Hybaskova. It causes hardship for the Palestinians, she noted, but added that at the same time she understood that Israel had placed it there for security reasons.
"It can be removed if the terrorists stop killing, but that life can not be replaced," she said.
David Hammerstein Mintz of Spain said that while he too understood Israel's security concerns, he was worried that the fence "would become a physical barrier to peace."
Hybaskova said that as someone who reads and speaks Arabic, the textbooks used by the Palestinian Authority upset her. She said the books were "awkward" and inadequate in that they spoke only in glowing terms about PLO victories.
Speaking later in the day with President Moshe Katsav, she pledged to bring evidence of Hamas violations of the election code to the attention of the European Parliament.
"Hamas, like Hizbullah, tries to use politics with one hand and violence with the other," said Katsav.
Pointing to similarities between Hamas and Hizbullah, Katsav added that if Hamas is not dismantled, "it will become stronger after the (Palestinian) elections." In her conversation with the Post, Hybaskova said she was concerned about the anti-Israel rhetoric Hamas politicians were using in campaigning for the upcoming January Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
"We are concerned about the code of conduct on the part of Hamas candidates.
We strongly urge Hamas to follow the rules," said Hybaskova, who will be returning to Israel as part of the EU's observer mission for the elections.
At the same time, she said, she wants Israel to ensure the Palestinians free passage during the elections in order to vote. She said she also believed that Palestinians politicians should be allowed to campaign in east Jerusalem. She added that social and public services in east Jerusalem were inadequate.
Her committee, she said, works to improve European relations with Israel on issues of trade, culture and education.
Katsav said during his meeting with the parliamentarians that even though cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians was much better than it was in the past, relations between the two sides were at a crucial point. "We are ready to compromise, but the Palestinians must be ready to compromise with us," said Katsav, noting the dramatic change in Israel's political map generated by changes in policy towards the Palestinians.
"That proves that Israel is a real democratic state," responded Hybaskova, adding that the European Parliament and the European Union are well aware that rogue states pose the same threats to Israel as they do to Europe.
Speaking for her colleagues as well as for herself, Hybaskova expressed a strong belief that only through the democratization of the Palestinian Authority can Israel gain peace.
"Therefore you should understand our concerns about east Jerusalem, the security fence and human rights," she said, explaining that the current situation "might lead to an increase of non-democratic elements on the Palestinian side."