Europe in the World

Last exit for peace: the struggle for a Palestinian State has entered a new stage

4 October 2011
Eberhard Rhein (Senior Adviser to EPC on neighbourhood policy)


Palestine is almost certain to be granted enhanced UN observer status as a non-member state, allowing Mahmoud Abbas to assume his place in history alongside Yasser Arafat and Yizhak Rabin as a statesman who gave his people a new sense of pride and hope for the future, writes Eberhard Rhein, senior policy advisor to the EPC, in this commentary.

But full UN membership is not around the corner given that the USA remains determined to block it; nor should it be the foremost priority for the Palestinian leadership in the near future, Rhein argues. He calls on the Palestinian leadership to build on their newly acquired international prestige and assemble a coalition of friends willing and able to exert pressure on Israel to engage in bona fide negotiations on territory, which he believes are a prerequisite for a viable Palestinian state and peace with Israel.

With the UN show just about over, now is the time to build on success at the General Assembly and push ahead with negotiations on the ground. Progress here will require flexibility from both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Rhein argues: not to mention much patient persuasion and pressure from Tony Blair and his colleagues in the so-called ‘Quartet’ of the USA, Russia, the EU and the UN.

Despite the almost insurmountable obstacles that lie in the way, Rhein believes the current window of opportunity could be the last chance for Europe and the international community to make peace between Israel and Palestine. It is therefore crucial for Israel, the Palestinians and the Quartet partners to weigh up the consequences of failure very carefully, he argues.

If yet another Palestinian generation grows up under Israeli occupation and negotiators fail to finally create a viable Palestinian state, then radicalisation, violence and guerrilla operations will further weaken the Middle East, Rhein concludes.

Last exit for peace: the struggle for a Palestinian State has entered a new stage

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Researcher in EU energy and climate policy, Institute of European Studies, Free University of Brussels

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