EP President: EU doesn't oppose Palestinian statehood

Negotiations are the best way for a solution; Israel also moved unilaterally in building settlements, Jerzy Buzek says.

Buzek at Knesset 311 (photo credit: Knesset)
Buzek at Knesset 311
(photo credit: Knesset)
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said on Wednesday that he is not opposed to a declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.
"I never said that I or the European Union opposes a unilateral declaration," Buzek said. "I said that it is better to negotiate the solution. It is much better to have a dialogue and understanding."
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"Unilateral declarations or decisions are not the best solution, but let me be frank," he added. "Your decisions about settlements are also unilateral, and have not been the best decisions. The Palestinians may not be making the best decision, but the settlements have complicated negotiations."
Buzek repeatedly emphasized the need for direct talks in both his speech to the Knesset and a subsequent press conference.
"The European Parliament supports [US President Barack] Obama's speech, in which he said talks should be based on '67 lines with land swaps," Buzek said, speaking in Polish to the plenum. "There is no realistic alternative to security based on direct negotiations without preconditions."
"This will take time and patience," he said, adding in Yiddish: "Krakow was not built in a day."
Speaking to the press, Buzek explained: "There is a unique opportunity for Israel and the Palestinians to shape a future based on dignity, unity and prosperity, which will be achieved only by negotiations."
"The time to start is now. Now is the best time, when there is a window of opportunity," he added. "That is the most important message I'd like to leave here in Israel."
The Palestinians did not explicitly say they are ready for negotiations, Buzek explained.
"My understanding, after all my discussions with the PA, is that they are ready to start negotiations," he said. "They didn't say it, but I feel it is true."
Buzek said that in his meeting with the Palestinians on Wednesday, the PA did not say they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, nor did they discuss possible compromises over the refugee issue.
"We know there is a problem with refugees, and it should be solved in some way, but what is most important is that we should sit down and start negotiating without preconditions," he said. "Sit down and start, and then we'll see which problem is most difficult, which to start from, whether it's the refugees or borders or Jerusalem."
Buzek did not answer a question about the legality of European Parliament members joining the upcoming flotilla to Gaza, calling the humanitarian situation there "a sad story."
"Observe how people in Gaza live. It looks horrible," he said. "The humanitarian disaster is terrible; let's solve it in the best possible way."
Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, also discussed at length the connection between Poland and Israel, pointing out that "many Polish Jewish people contributed a lot to our state and your state. The history of your state is the history of my homeland."
He joked that, had he spoken in the Knesset 50 years ago, many MKs would not have needed the simultaneous translation headsets that were distributed in the plenum on Wednesday afternoon.
Buzek also compared the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to the Solidarity movement that led to democracy in Poland in the 1980s.
"In my country, it was not easy to start the democratization process," he said. "It was very difficult, but we proceeded step by step, and tried to open ourselves and see the position of our partner."
Buzek spoke of the Holocaust and his country's efforts to educate its citizens and tourists about the atrocities in Auschwitz, and recalled the "shock" he experienced on his first trip to the death camp as a teenager.
"This memory is always with me, even after all these decades," Buzek said, adding: "This tragedy will not happen again."
Buzek said that Poland and the European Union are committed to fighting anti-Semitism "in the name of all humanity. The fight against racism, xenophobia and prejudice is a war for human dignity, which needs to be important to of all nations and states."
"This planet is too small for people to reject each other," he said, calling for the "eradication of hatred."
The European Parliament president paraphrased Ecclesiastes, saying that there is a "time for love, a time for hate, a time for war, a time for peace."
"We already experienced hate and war; it's time for peace," he concluded, to a round of applause from the audience of MKs.
Later, at the press conference, Rivlin told Buzek that "everyone is ready to accept the dream of peace. Nevertheless, I can assure you that some went to sleep with dreams of peace and woke up with a nightmare." Rivlin then cited the Oslo Accords and the withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon.
"In spite of this, the people are Israel are ready to give up a lot when they are preparing for peace," Rivlin added. "We are in this together – Arabs and Israeli Jewish people – we are not doomed to live together. Our destiny is to live together. We have to find a way to bring understanding between these two peoples."
Rivlin also asked Buzek to do whatever possible to help bring Hamas to release captive soldier Gilad Schalit, and asked for the European Parliament to display an exhibition based on Schalit's book, When the Shark and the Fish First Met, in its halls.
"If this will be shown in the European Parliament, it could influence public opinion and force Hamas to understand that they cannot behave as they have with Gilad Schalit," Rivlin said.