British consul general to Jerusalem (2010-2014) calls for recognition of the state of Palestine in order to safeguard the two-state solution


Over 4000 visitors to this site have searched for and found the post about countries or states recognised as neutral, including news of Ireland (one of 5 EU neutrals of varying degrees of ‘fidelity’) which has “a traditional policy of military neutrality defined as non-membership of mutual defence alliances”.

As news is coming in of shifting stances with regard to Israel and of Ireland’s concern, we find a noteworthy article in the Irish Times by Lancashire-born Sir Vincent Fean, British consul general to Jerusalem from 2010 until his retirement from the diplomatic service last year. This follows his contribution in the Telegraph last September.

sir vincent mobbedUnaware of his advocacy, and seeing him only as a representative of the British government, students protested during his 2013 visit to Ramallah

A summary of points made there (brackets contain relevant links added by editor)

Binyamin Netanyahu has driven a coach and horses through the considered policy of the international community. Peace will come in the Holy Land only when those two states live side by side in peace and security. What should we do?

Recognise the state of Palestine to safeguard the two-state solution to the long-term benefit of Israelis and Palestinians

Recognise the state of Palestine now, as the Irish Senate and Dáil have recommended (last October the Seanad passed a motion calling on the Irish Government to formally recognise the State of Palestine. Sweden, also on C3’s list of neutrals though disputed because of its arms dealing and membership of NATO, recognised Palestine last October).

The Arab citizens of Israel, 20% of the population, voted in unprecedented numbers “in droves”, said Netanyahu, and won 14 seats in the parliament of 120. They too will oppose Netanyahu’s stated policies, which risk perpetuating the unacceptable status quo or even creating a “Greater Israel” in which Palestinians inevitably will be victims of an apartheid system.

“Was [Netanyahu] just pulling our leg?”

At least things are now clear. Netanyahu will again form a coalition with the pro-settler party of Naftali Bennett and advocate Israeli illegal annexation of the Palestinian countryside, including the Jordan Valley, in the same way that Israel annexed East Jerusalem illegally after the 1967 war.

Recently Martin Indyk, secretary of state John Kerry’s chief negotiator in the valiant but flawed US peace effort of 2013-14, asked about Netanyahu “Was he just pulling our leg?” throughout that nine-month period of intensive Kerry shuttle diplomacy. Now we know. So what do we do?

We need to reject a few myths:

  • One is “We can’t want a solution more than the parties to this conflict”. Yes we can. We can and do want the just and equitable solution – two states living side by side in mutual security, with parity of esteem and mutual respect.
  • Another myth is “Leave it to the two parties to sort it out”. That was never a runner, given the vast disparity in power between them. Israel controls the land, sea and air of Palestine.
  • A third myth is that the United Nations has no role in resolving this conflict. What we need is what Kerry did not do (because Netanyahu was averse) – to agree unanimously a UN Security Council resolution establishing the framework and timeline for the two-state outcome we seek.

Certainly, we need the United States– essential, but not sufficient alone to deliver an agreed peace. We need the collective will of the UN, bringing together the US, the European Union and the Arab states, particularly Israel’s peace treaty neighbours Egypt and Jordan. Ireland, as a determined, highly credible advocate of the UN and major contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts, has a key part to play here.

Recognition of Palestine on 1967 lines is the logical step now for all states committed to an equitable two-state solution. It would:

  • Give hope to the beleaguered would-be peacemakers in Ramallah, whose readiness to negotiate is so heavily criticised by Hamas and by mistaken advocates of futile violence.
  • Signal to Israelis that there will indeed be a sovereign Palestinian state, so Israel’s leaders need to shape an agreement, not rule one out, and show to the world and to ourselves that right matters more than might.
  • Ireland, working with Sweden, France and other partners could bring the EU into play by forming a “group of the willing” – Europeans deciding to recognise Palestine now, on the basis of long-established EU policy for that equitable two-state solution.

Sir Vincent expects no more than sincere expressions of concern from London before the May 7th general election: “What the UK does then depends on how we vote – Labour, the Lib Dems, the Scottish National Party and the Greens see recognition as a Palestinian right, not a privilege. As do I”.

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