Guterres lauds efforts of Israeli-Palestinian confederation plan authors

The UN Secretary General has been a strong advocate of a two-state resolution to the conflict and reaffirmed that stance at a recent meeting.

 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as part of the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate in UN General Assembly Hall at the United Nation (photo credit:  JUSTIN LANE/POOL VIA REUTERS)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as part of the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate in UN General Assembly Hall at the United Nation
(photo credit: JUSTIN LANE/POOL VIA REUTERS)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres spoke positively of a new grassroots plan to create an Israeli-Palestinian confederation when he met with its authors in New York on Friday.

“The secretary-general received [former Israeli justice minister] Yossi Beilin and [former Palestinian negotiator] Hiba Husseini, who presented him with their report on the ‘Holy Land Confederation’ process,” Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said after the meeting.

“He thanked them for their useful contribution to try and achieve a lasting solution to the conflict,” he said.

Guterres has been a strong advocate of a two-state resolution to the conflict and reaffirmed that stance at the meeting.

“The secretary-general reaffirms the UN commitment to supporting the parties to achieve a just and peaceful solution to the conflict, including through the Middle East Quartet and the establishment of two states, based on 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states,” Dujarric said.

 Yossi Beilin attends a memorial ceremony of the Meretz political party for late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, in Rabin's Monument site at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on November 4, 2021.  (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) Yossi Beilin attends a memorial ceremony of the Meretz political party for late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, in Rabin's Monument site at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on November 4, 2021. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

This would be “in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he said.

Friday’s meeting marked the end of a series of high-level conversations among a small group of Israelis and Palestinians last week in Washington and New York.

They met with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and the nominee for assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, as well a number of Democratic members of Congress and the Senate, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

The meeting with Guterres lasted for 40 minutes and included four of his advisers, Beilin said. The UN head said the plan could perhaps help revive the peace process, and he expressed regret at the absence of negotiations.

Beilin said he had asked Guterres if he would include the confederation plan in his talking points with leaders in the region and if he could help the group use the UN platform for debates and discourse on the confederation.

“He [Guterres] promised that in his talks with his interlocutors, as he said, he will raise this option of a confederation,” Beilin said, adding that separately, “for the first time after many years, [Guterres said] he can have a dialogue with the Israeli government.”

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom, Prof. Omar Dajani and Dr. Saliba Sarsar also participated in the meeting.

When they met with Sherman, she was particularly interested in the section about settlers remaining in their homes, given that the issue of evacuating the settlements is one of the most difficult ones on the road to peace, Beilin said.

Sherman did not endorse the plan, but she said it was productive and that they had “not given up” and were trying to find a realistic path to peace, he said.

The Holy Land Confederation plan proposes a European Union-style confederation of an independent Israeli and Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders as outlined by the 2003 Geneva Initiative.

This new plan is not formally connected to the initiative or to the organization that continues to promote it.

Beilin was instrumental in the formation of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the Geneva Initiative, which he has incorporated into his latest endeavor.

Among the distinct features of the plan is a joint Israeli-Palestinian narrative of the history of both peoples.

The plan also provides a blueprint by which settlers would remain in their homes as residents but not citizens of a Palestinian state. In exchange, a similar number of Palestinians would be allowed to live in Israel as residents but not citizens.

Beilin and Husseini have published their plan at a time when few Israelis and Palestinians are pursuing talks.

The formal peace process has been frozen for almost eight years. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been blunt about his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, and US President Joe Biden has not spoken of any intention to put forward a peace process at this time.