Nabil Fahmy writes: ‘The Trump plan imposes Israeli security and economic control over a self-autonomous Palestinian entity’
Below are Sir Vincent Fean’s thoughts on Fahmy’s suggestions.
Dr Nabil Fahmy, former Foreign Minister of Egypt, is well placed to offer policy advice to the Palestinian leadership, having spent many years grappling with the issues. I do not presume to advise, but have some thoughts on his ideas.
The Balfour Project strongly agrees with Dr Fahmy, who now teaches at the American University of Cairo, that the Trump proposal is not a basis for negotiations (cf our 4 February post on this website). It was expressly designed to be rejected by the Palestinians, who were right to do so. They had no other choice.
He is also right that the only way that the Israeli military occupation of 1967 will end is through negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, in a multilateral setting. The United States is not the ‘honest broker’ it once claimed to be; rather, as some retired American diplomats admit, it has become ‘Israel’s lawyer’.
Fahmy proposes that the Palestinians should declare a Palestinian state in the territories occupied since 1967. In fact the Palestine Liberation Organisation has done this: Yasser Arafat did so in 1988, when the Palestine National Council, its highest body, endorsed the Partition Resolution of the UN General Assembly and endorsed Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This remains PLO policy. Almost 140 countries, including Egypt, of the UN’s 193 membership have recognised the Palestinian state on this basis.
Fahmy joins many others in urging a unified Palestinian Government. Such a Government is indeed highly desirable, never more so than today. Since our Government recognises states, not governments, there is no legal impediment to immediate British Government recognition of the state of Palestine. The Balfour Project continues to advocate British Government recognition of Palestine now alongside Israel, for many reasons, including to demonstrate parity of esteem for both peoples.
He suggests that the Palestinians call for direct negotiations with Israel under the auspices of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The UN is the correct body to address this conflict: when the United Kingdom indicated its wish to give up its Palestine Mandate in 1947, the UN assumed responsibility. So the call is both right and urgent, and since it is urgent, it should be made now.
He also suggests, rightly, that the Arab Peace Initiative should be a basis for future negotiations. The Initiative, inspired by the late Saudi King Abdullah, dates back to 2002, and remains the united Arab offer to Israel: full normalisation of relations in return for Palestinian sovereign statehood. Sadly, to date, Israel has given it short shrift, attempting to bypass it and divide the Arab states.
Fahmy concludes that if the Israeli Government proceeds soon to annex some or all of the illegal Jewish settlements, and the Jordan Valley, then the Palestinians should seek equal rights in one state in the territory of Mandate Palestine.
That is ultimately a question for the PLO, not for Britain. The Balfour Project advocates equal rights – and will continue to advocate British Government recognition of the state of Palestine alongside Israel. It is not for us to prescribe Palestinian policy: our focus is British responsibility, and policy.
There is, however, a pressing question for Britain, and for our Government, to consider at this time: how will it respond to unilateral Israeli annexation of what remains, and what Britain agrees to be – occupied Palestinian territory? Foreign Secretary Raab has stated that Britain strongly opposes unilateral Israeli annexation, contrary to international law. Undeterred, and with the full support of the Trump Administration, Netanyahu and Gantz have agreed to proceed.
Middle East Minister Cleverly affirmed on 14 April that the British Government ‘is committed to making progress towards a two-state solution and supporting Palestinians in realising self-determination through an independent, sovereign and unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza’.
Annexation directly contradicts that British commitment.
How will our Government respond when the Knesset votes for annexation? Words of condemnation will not suffice.
Sir Vincent Fean
Chair of trustees, Balfour Project
18 April 2020