Delivered in Plenary - 24th April 2002
I share your deep concern at the upsurge in violence which has taken place in the Middle East in recent weeks, because both sides appear to have locked themselves into a downward spiral which leaves little room for dialogue and progress towards a final settlement. The only possible solution is one based on UN Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1402, involving the acceptance of a two-state solution which will give security to the state of Israel and dignity to the Palestinians. This will involve an eventual total withdrawal from the occupied territories and a dismantling of all the illegal settlements.
We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that there is a huge convergence of international opinion as violence increases, which we need to build on. It must also be made clear that the right of return for Palestinians can only apply to the new state of Palestine, as otherwise the Jewish state of Israel's security would be compromised. Compensation, however, will need to be considered for those whose properties were expropriated as a necessary prelude to a resumption of meaningful negotiations over a final political settlement.
On the one hand, tragically, we have suicide bombers engaged in indiscriminate attacks upon Israeli civilians and, on the other hand, there is a tragic civilian loss of life on the Palestinian side, when Israel sends in its troops to root out those responsible.
I did not support the call for an immediate suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement as I felt this move to be too punitive and selective at this juncture. I did, however, agree to call for an emergency EU- Israel Association Council meeting to discuss the crisis. In particular, I felt, along with many of my colleagues, that the Palestinian authority, which receives EUR 120 million a year from the EU, should have done more to restrain the suicide bombers and Islamic terrorists. I call upon Chairman Arafat to condemn, regularly and in Arabic, the terrorist attacks, and recognise Israel's right to exist in peace behind its 1967 borders.
At the same time, I call upon the Likud Party to remove all references in its manifesto to its claims that the West Bank is an integral and perpetual part of the state of Israel. Nevertheless, I am concerned at the excessive use of force by the army, the disregard of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the application of collective punishments to civilians and the ban on ambulance passage into Israel proper which affected wounded civilians, as well as fighters and terrorists, and which, I was glad to see, was lifted the following day.
I believe that with the Two-State Solution the international community has now established the basis for a lasting and durable peace. We must all now seize upon this opportunity from the international community to implement this before we have a major Middle-Eastern war on our hands.