Foreign minister Støre wrote an article for Dagsavisen that was also published on the government website. Here follows an unauthorized translation:
Dialogue: upheavals in the Arab world could also provide a framework for a new spring between Palestinians and Israelis. Our message is clear: go to the negotiating table!We are witnessing a popular revolt in the Arab world. One common denominator is the protest against authoritarian leaders, corruption, poor governance, lack of respect for human rights and particularly dismal prospects for employment and welfare for a large, young, impatient population.Although there are different countries are developing in different things, one thing is certain: The region will never be as before. In all the political upheavals we see a pendulum that can swing sharply one way – as in Egypt since Mubarak was forced to resign – and then return as established power structures assert themselves. This is what the young protesters from Tahrir Square now fear will happen, as Egyptians prepare for free elections in the autumn.Palestinian and Israeli leaders are following the situation and keep their own counsel. I met them early in January. At that time, the Arab spring was barely in evidence and the arguments from both sides were well known. When I met them in March the changes had been fully incorporated in their analyses.A democratic spring could have been a good starting point to seek a breakthrough in negotiations between Israel and the PLO. But the opposite seems to be happening, the parties are withdrawing to their most established positions. Israel says they lack a counterparty, and points out all the uncertainty around them. Palestinians refer to Israeli settlement expansion and an unwillingness to negotiate. President Abbas is shifting his focus to work for the world community to recognize the Palestinian state during the UN General Assembly in September.To take the last first: I understand the desire for recognition, the Palestinians have waited a long time. Recognition is a powerful symbolic act. We also want it to be an act of substance, meaning that the state is fully established. Norway looks forward to being able to recognize Palestine as a result of a two-state solution. As long as there is hope for such a solution, this is the path we will follow. But there is reason for concern. Should Israel categorically reject the negotiation track, we also need to rethink our views before the UN meeting in September. Many governments in Europe are in the same situation.The Palestinians are fighting a legitimate struggle to get a Palestinian state recognized. The AHLC Donor Group, which Norway chairs, concluded at its meeting in April that the Palestinian Authority has carried out extensive reforms so that they now largely qualify to govern a state. The assessment is based partly on the United Nations, World Bank and the IMF’s views on progress. The Palestinian authority is therefore ready to take on the responsibility of governing a state.One result of the Arab spring is the initiative to achieve Palestinian reconciliation. It is necessary. The division presents so many obstacles, including the option of allowing President Abbas to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians. But the challenges are many. We remember the experience of coalition government in the spring of 2007 and the dramatic breakup that led to Hamas taking control of Gaza. And we remember the U.S. and the EU’s dismissive attitude to President Abbas’s reconciliation efforts.Now, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a unity government of independent persons who may prepare the election. Norway will consider such a government if and when it arrives. There is a clear expectation that any Palestinian government to respect agreements already entered into, including the Oslo agreement, which establishes recognition of Israel.It is striking to see the difference in the international reaction to the reconciliation in 2011 compared with 2007. The climate is more open today, more responsive. Maybe it’s a side effect of the winds of change. Skepticism on Hamas’s charter and attitudes have not changed. We distance ourselves from much of the content and make this, as we did to the PLO through the 70s and 80s before going into direct negotiations with Israel. But this is not about Hamas, but about the coalition government, what it stands for and who it consists of.It is promising that leaders in Europe and the United States will await what a reconciliation consists of and what a new government will stand for, before they issue a verdict. EU welcomes the reconciliation. U.S. maintains an open mind. President Obama’s clear emphasis that a Palestinian state must be established within the 1967 borders with the opening of the land exchange, is important and a clear signal that negotiations have started. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection is not surprising, but disheartening.From the Norwegian side, we hold on to our policy of contact. Norwegian envoys have met all the representative groups in the region, including Hamas. Our message to them is as clear as foreign minister Frydelund’s message to the PLO in the 70s: Recognise Israel. And the message to the Palestinians and Israelis together, go to the negotiating table!
This can pretty much stand on its own as an example of sloppy policy formulation, and an example why Norwegian envoys might as well be whistling dixie for all the difference they will actually make in the region.
But let’s point out a couple of things:
- Støre seems to believe that Hamas has be subservient to “PLO” (dude, I think you mean the “Palestinian National Authority.” Hamas is not a member of the PLO). There is absolutely nothing Hamas has said or done to give credence to such an absurd assumption. On the contrary, rumors have it that Hamas is scheming to push both Abbas and Fayyad to the sidelines at the first possible opportunity. Or push them off tall buildings whichever is more convenient.
- One quote is interesting “protest against authoritarian leaders, corruption, poor governance, lack of respect for human rights and particularly dismal prospects for employment and welfare for big, young, impatient population.” None of which is a particular problem in Israel, or even in areas under Israeli administration. Israel does not have an authoritarian government; the governance is quite effective; while human rights violations are alleged and do occur, they don’t even approach the levels of any Arab country; and Israel provides employment for not only its own citizens, but also Palestinians, Lebanese, and a host of other countries that export their young and impatient population’s workforce.
- It is of course kind of Støre to be so understanding of the Palestinians’ need for recognition, and we’ll just mention in passing that the PLO was given observer status at the United Nations while it was an active terrorist organization. But it might be politic to express some understanding of Israel’s security needs, maybe give a nod of recognition to the hail of rockets over Israel?
- It is ironic that Støre makes reference to the Oslo accord when a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would be a blatant violation of this agreement. In fact, we would highly recommend that Støre actually sit down and read the relevant documents. They contain some provisions that might startle him. For example, the allowed size of the Palestinian security forces, or what the parties are allowed to do in A, B, and C areas.
- What, precisely, in Netanyahu’s reaction was “disheartening?” That he said he would be the first to recognize a Palestinian state, established in peace? Or that he said he was willing to make painful compromises? Or more likely, that Netanyahu said that his country’s security needs were of utmost priority?
- And this is the gist of the whole article. The problem is the Israelis.
- So now we know what “dialogue” really means: Pity and condescend to the Palestinians, preach sanctimoniously to the Israelis, and toss around simplistic platitudes to pander to the left-wing constituency.