The Foreigner 2011 09 19 Michael Sandelson

UPDATED: Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says Norway is conditionally prepared to support a separate Palestinian state, urging donor countries to maintain financial support. Meanwhile, he thinks Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ UN bid could backfire.

Positions, peace, and praise

“The Palestinians must be willing to start negotiations on final status issues. The text must recognise Israel’s right to exist and not delegitimize the State of Israel, either directly or indirectly.”

Declaring that the Norwegian Parliament underwrites these views, he tells Aftenposten, “We, who are friends of both Israel and the Palestinians, but above all the peace process, have communicated this message [to the Palestinians].”

“They should obligate themselves to modern principles of state anchored in the UN charter, such as universal human rights and the rule of law, when talking of a Palestinian state,” the Foreign Minister continues, saying he feels there is broad governmental support for these views.

The FM cautiously endorsed Palestine’s UN recognition bid in July, following talks and a working lunch with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. As part of efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries Norway has also agreed to a Palestinian embassy in Oslo, allowing a Palestinian representative to have a rank of ambassador.

“The Palestinians have a right to go to the UN. Norway will support this and is ready to recognise a Palestinian state,” FM Støre posted on his Facebook wall at the weekend.

Chairing yesterday’s Ad Hoc Liason Committee (AHLC) meeting at the UN in New York, he particularly commended the Palestinians and the Israelis “for their spirit of cooperation and their positive contributions to the deliberations.”

“The progress we have seen in the Palestinian Territory, under the leadership of Prime Minister SalamFayyad, is a success story and one of the most successful state-building projectsfor decades. This is the result of a concerted effort, primarily from Palestinians themselves, but also with important contributions from donors and Israel,” he said in a press statement.

The group reaffirmed its commitment to a peaceful and secure two-state solution, and supported Israeli-Palestinian peace talks “in full compliance with Road Map obligations”.

Cooperation and continuation

At the same time, the AHLC is also worried about Palestine’s fragile economic situation due to declining growth and increasing unemployment.

“The Palestinian economy is facing increased risks after a strong performance in the West Bank from 2008 to 2010 (…)  The slowdown is due to continued fiscal retrenchment, declining aid from donors and a consequent liquidity crisis. There was no major easing of Israeli restrictions in the West Bank including East-Jerusalem over the past year (…) The World Bank warns that the acute fiscal crisis accompanied by declining economic growth may undermine the gains in institution-building made painstakingly over the past years.”

To ease Palestine’s situation, the group says Israel and donors need to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority, and come with measures that “assist in implementing an orderly transition to economic self-reliance without undermining the progress achieved over the last years.”

“First, the revenues should be increased by a widening of the tax base and improved tax collection. This includes an efficient, transparent and predictable clearance revenue collection by Israel on behalf of the PA. Second, the private sector should be bolstered through further dismantling of restrictions on economic activity in the West Bank and Gaza. Third, the donors should provide assistance for recurrent costs for the transitional period.”

FM Jonas Gahr Støre added that, “The contributions do not replace the need for sustainable economic growth in the private sector. Israeli restrictions on access to natural resources and markets must be lifted to a much greater extent than previously for growth to be strengthened, according to reports from UN, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.”


President Mahmoud Abbas wants to make a bid to the UN Security Council (UNSC) for full UN “Palestine” membership, instead of settling for a lesser status as non-member observer state via the UN General Assembly.

His decision has met with both US and Israeli opposition, who argue it would undermine the chances of returning to peace talks, and the only way to establish a state is through negotiations.

Despite a US veto to block his bid, however, President Abbas says he is undeterred, as no other possibilities remain.

“The Palestinian people and their leadership will pass through very difficult times after the Palestinian approach to the United Nations through the Security Council. From now until I give the speech, we have only one choice: going to the Security Council,” AFP reports him as saying on his way to New York to address the UN General Assembly, Friday.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre fears Abbas’ decision is ill advised, strongly advocating the Palestinian people approach the General Assembly instead.

“My main message has been to warn against this [going to the UNSC], as they know the result will be a no, either due to a US veto, or lack of majority for Palestinian membership. I believe this could then turn friends into enemies. The Palestinians don’t need these,” he says to Aftenposten.