Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide thinks many other nations will conclude as Norway has, that it’s in the interests of peace in the Middle East to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ request for Palestine to become a non-member observer state.
Eide called the Palestinians’ proposal “balanced and constructive,” and said it was “natural” for Norway to support it after being closely involved in the process leading up to it. Abbas was expected to formally present the proposal at the UN on Thursday.
“It builds upon accepted language and it declares that the new Palestinian state wants to live in peace alongside Israel,” Eide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The UN’s special coordinator for Mideast Peace, Robert Serry, has said the current “status quo” between Israel and the Palestinians is “unsustainable” and that there’s an “urgent” need to get the peace process “back on track.” Serry noted that UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon has also said the Palestinians should have an “independent and viable state of their own, living side by side with the state of Israel in peace and security.”
Eide said Norwegian diplomats, who have been involved in Middle East peace efforts for decades, have offered advice on what the text of Abbas’ resolution should contain in order to attract as much support as possible, and believes the Palestinians have followed through. He said the resolution is straightforward, with no slanted formulation about Israel’s role and no rules about how a peace pact might be constructed.
The Norwegian government now thinks, according to Eide, that non-member observer status can encourage negotiations after recent weeks of conflict and a fragile cease-fire. Being a non-member observer state would give the Palestinians the right to express themselves at meetings, but no voting rights over resolutions.
Eide also thinks other countries including the US will come around. “It’s no secret that the Americans have been skeptical towards the Palestinians going this route,” Eide told NRK, “but I see for myself that many European countries will land on the same viewpoint as ours.” By Wednesday afternoon, Spain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark were among those saying they would support the Palestinians’ request.
“Those who believe in a peaceful solution see the risk that Hamas may be the side emerging the strongest from the recent conflict with the Israelis,” Eide continued. “That’s an argument in favour of not doing anything that would appear to hand Abbas’ side a defeat.” The split between the Palestinians’ Hamas organization in Gaza and the Fatah organization led by Abbas on the West Bank has badly disrupted the Palestinians’ negotiations with Israel and their creation of their own state. On Monday, however, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said he supported Abbas’ proposal to the UN.
Eide thinks many countries in the UN’s General Assembly will support the proposal. The General Assembly approved as early as 1974 that Palestine be granted observer status but not as a state. A total of 131 of the UN’s 193 members states have formally recognized Palestine as an independent state.
For the official announcement of Norway’s support for the Palestinian request to become a non-member observer state at the UN, click here.
Israel, meanwhile, has threatened sanctions to withhold Palestinian tax revenues and topple Abbas if the resolution goes through, but Eide said that wouldn’t be legal. “Israel collects money that belongs to the Palestinians … if it’s not passed on, it would be theft,” Eide said. “And toppling Abbas is, to me, a very bad idea. It would only strengthen Hamas and make things even more difficult for Israel.”
Israel’s new ambassador to Norway, Naim Araidi, warned against upgrading the Palestinians’ status at the UN before Eide announced Norway would support just that. Araidi told news bureau NTB that it would be “catastrophic” because it would negate commitments of the earlier so-called Oslo Agreement. He called Abbas’ proposal “childish” and “a provocation against Israel” that only would allow the Palestinians to file a legal complaint over Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
There were some reservations about Norway’s support in the Parliament on Wednesday, but a spokesman for the Conservative Party said the Conservatives would go along. Snorre Valen, foreign policy spokesman for the Socialist Left party (SV), which long has supported a Palestinian state, called Eide’s decision to do the same a “great” victory for SV. “It places Norway on the right side of history,” Valen said.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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