At the end of a day in which international organizations in Europe severely rebuked Israel, and the French were poised to submit a joint resolution with the Jordanians and Palestinians to the UN Security Council calling for a Palestinian state in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “spirit of appeasement” is blowing through Europe.
Speaking Wednesday evening at a reception for foreign journalists, Netanyahu cited three decisions – the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg’s taking Hamas off the EU’s terrorist list, the European Parliament’s resolution backing Palestinian statehood, and the call at a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to investigate Israel for supposed violations of that convention – as indicating Europe’s interest in appeasing the “very forces that threaten Europe itself.”
“Too many in Europe are calling on Israel to make concessions that would endanger not only the security of Israel, but also – paradoxically – the security of Europe,” he said.
“Because Israel is the forward position of European civilization.
Israel is the bulwark of European values. Israel is the pluralist, vibrant, multi-party democracy.”
Israel, he said, “is an embattled democracy in a region plagued by totalitarianism, tyranny, and Islamist terrorism.”
The prime minister said Israel is forced to defend itself against terrorists who committed “double war crimes,” firing indiscriminately on Israeli civilians while using their own people as human shields.
Yet the focus at the meeting in Geneva, he said, was that Israel must be investigated for war crimes.
Israel, along with the US, Canada, Australia, and Rwanda, boycotted the meeting that said the Jewish state’s settlement policies in the West Bank and Jerusalem conflict with its responsibilities as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The declaration at the end of the meeting said that “serious violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and that all those responsible should be brought to justice.”
Netanyahu said of the meeting, “What hypocrisy, what a travesty. I ask, where is elementary European integrity?” Referring to the argument that the current wave of diplomatic rebukes coming from Europe is the result of deep frustration on the continent regarding the situation in the Middle East, Netanyahu said that Israel, too, is frustrated with the situation in the Middle East.
“We are frustrated that our Palestinian neighbors refuse to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own,” he said. “We are frustrated that our Palestinian neighbors continue to incite against Jews and the Jewish state, creating a climate of hatred and violence. We are frustrated that they refuse to negotiate seriously about our legitimate security concerns.
And in this part of the world, there can be no genuine peace without security, for peace will not last if it cannot be defended.”
The simple truth, he said, was that “half of Palestinian society has been taken over by Islamic extremists who openly call for Israel’s destruction, while the other half refuses to confront the first half.
So when the Europeans say, ‘We are frustrated,’ we say, ‘Join the club.’” But frustration, he said, must not be an excuse for “wrong policy.”
Israeli officials said that one manifestation of this “wrong policy” is the French UN Security Council resolution that is under discussion in the corridors of the United Nations and that might be merged with a Jordanian resolution.
While the US has made clear that it would veto the Palestinian resolution, which calls for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within two years, it is not clear how Washington would respond to a more moderate French/Palestinian resolution.
It is also unclear when that resolution would be tabled, with Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour telling reporters Wednesday that the Palestinians hoped to have a resolution “in blue” by the end of the day – meaning they hoped to present the draft to the Security Council for a vote 24 hours later.
“And I think it will happen,” he added.
One leaked draft of the resolution calls for an agreement within two years based on the following parameters:
• Borders based on the pre-1967 lines with “mutually agreed limited equivalent land swaps”
• Security agreements that respect the sovereignty of a non-militarized state of Palestine, “including through a full-phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces that will end the occupation that began in 1967 over an agreed transition period in a reasonable time frame.”
• An “agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee question, including a viable mechanism to provide for reparation, resettlement, compensation, and other agreed measures for a conclusive resolution”
• Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states, such that it fulfills the aspirations of both parties and protects freedom of worship
• An agreed settlement of other outstanding issues, including water The resolution skirts the contentious issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, citing UN General Assembly resolution 181 from November 29, 1947, which called for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
The draft resolution also says the Security Council “looks forward to welcoming Palestine as a full member of the United Nations” – a phrase that both European and Israeli diplomats have interpreted to mean that if an agreement is not reached within two years, the UN will give full statehood recognition to “Palestine.”
While not referring specifically to this resolution, Netanyahu said that when EU member states called for the recognition of a Palestinian state, “why should the Palestinian leadership demonstrate responsible behavior? Why should the Palestinian leadership jettison its maximalist and extreme positions? Why should it abandon its call to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians? Why should the PA do any of this if its extremist and irresponsible behavior is rewarded time and again by European parliaments?” The prime minister said that declarations of recognizing “Palestine” reinforced Palestinian intransigence, “pushing peace further away.”
“There is a simple truth that cannot be ignored,” he said. “Peace will only come when the Palestinians are willing to confront their own extremists. Instead of embracing the militants, the PA should fight them; instead of rewarding Palestinian intransigence, the European democracies should support the one and only democracy in the Middle East.”
In a related development, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has rejected requests to meet with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström when she visits Jerusalem next month, because of the way Sweden went about recognizing “Palestine.”
In October, the Swedish government became the first major European country to recognize the state of “Palestine,” unleashing a wave of calls for similar moves in numerous parliaments across the continent.
Diplomatic officials said Sweden had made this move without informing Israel in advance or heeding any of its arguments. The decision to snub the Swedish foreign minister, one official said, was meant to “send a message.”
Maya Shwayder contributed to this report from New York.