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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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Opinion I deeply hope that Dáil Éireann will vote to recognise Palestine

Former Israeli ambassador Ilan Baruch writes that only through a two state solution will freedom, security and equality for both Israelis and Palestinians come to pass.

SOMETIMES IS SEEMS as if the violence and pain that characterise the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians are the result of a natural intractable phenomenon.

Sometimes it also feels as if the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is as reliable as the sunrise in the morning. Luckily, history teaches us that just as we can rely on a warm glow to greet us each morning, we know that it is only a matter of time until people living under foreign rule will be liberated.

The resolution of this particular conflict is neither far off nor obscured. Ending the occupation and establishing two states on the basis of the 1967 borders will not only ensure the continued legitimate existence of the state of Israel, but will also allow for Palestinians to live freely and securely in their own state.

Peace and dignity over conflict and oppression

It is in this spirit that the recent decision of Seanad Éireann to recognise the state of Palestine is most welcome. In doing so, the members of Seanad Éireann have chosen not Palestine over Israel nor Israel over Palestine, but peace and dignity over conflict and oppression.

The recent Seanad vote followed similar initiatives in Britain and Sweden. These are brave and necessary steps towards putting Israel and Palestine on the road to peace.

The European Community adopted the two-state solution over 34 years ago, upon signing the Venice Declaration. The declaration criticised the Israeli policy of occupation and settlement construction as being contrary to international law and UN resolutions 242 and 338. In addition, it recognised the right of the Palestinian people to full self-determination and stated that the PLO should be involved in negotiations geared toward peace.

At the time, Israeli officials did not warmly receive the statement. However, the signing of the Oslo Accords 13 years later occurred thanks to the courageous position adopted by Europe in 1980.

Today’s reality is undeniably different from that of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Nevertheless, it also shares many similarities with that era. Israelis and Palestinians live under arrangements many of which are the result of the Oslo Accords, although the hope that came with those agreements – for an end to the occupation and a resolution to the conflict – has sadly ebbed.

While the current Israeli government has paid lip service to the international community in agreeing to participate in negotiations with the Palestinians, throughout the talks it proceeded to promote its settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Recent reports of Israel’s ongoing construction on Palestinian land only reinforces what is clear to anyone who has observed the conduct of Israeli leadership in recent years: if nothing stands in Israel’s way, our leadership intends to continue its military control over the Palestinians; to maintain the separation between Gaza and the West Bank; and to tighten its control over Area C (which constitutes 60% of the West Bank) and East Jerusalem.

A dangerous policy for both Palestinians and Israelis

If executed, these steps will bring about a reality defined by de facto annexation of the aforementioned territories. This policy is dangerous not only for Palestinians, who will always be the primary victims, but also for Israelis, who can no longer hide behind fickle negotiations while continuing to systematically violate the rights of the Palestinians under their control. The facts on the ground sabotage the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Europe has changed since the early ’80s, but today it can still play a leading role similar to the one it assumed over three decades ago. The Swedish government’s recent decision to recognise a Palestinian state, along with the similar symbolic decision adopted by the British House of Commons and Seanad Éireann, are steps in the right direction that I hope other European countries will follow.

Hope for change fades along with the Israeli government’s determination to continue the occupation. Within the parameters of this bleak reality, international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is a necessary step to promote the two-state solution. Such recognition does not mark an end to negotiations, but rather the first necessary step toward a renewed and more balanced process.

Much like the Venice Declaration, recognition of a Palestinian state reflects the commitment of the countries that adopt this policy to the self-determination of both Palestinian and Jewish people.

Only two states will be able to bring about freedom, security and equality for both Israelis and Palestinians by ensuring that national aspirations for both peoples are realised.

Today, Israel is not in need of alleged friends that allow it to continue to trample this resolution. Israel needs true friends that will serve as partners in realising this vision.

I extend my sincere gratitude to Seanad Éireann for its gesture of friendship in voting to recognise Palestine, and I deeply hope that Dáil Éireann will follow suit.

Ilan Baruch is a former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa.

Ireland could soon be the latest country to recognise the State of Palestine

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