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"We cannot be seen to drag our feet"
In the wake of US President Obama's efforts to restart Middle-East peace negotiations based on the 1967 borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a visit to the Occupied Territories by the Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council we talked to delegation chair Proinsias de Rossa.
Mr De Rossa spoke of seeing "first hand the abuse, the humiliation, the breach of human rights that Palestinians face on a daily basis." He noted that many young people are jailed, claiming that there are 200 Palestinian children in Israeli jails at the moment.
"When we were in Hebron we walked through a market covered with a grill, covered with rocks and stones and all kinds of debris thrown by the settlers who occupy the accommodation over the street," he said "A member of our group was doused in smelly water from overhead while we where there, because the settlers don't want strangers, they don't want the area to be an attraction to visitors."
However, this is nothing to what the Palestinians experience, Mr De Rossa said. "It's constant abuse, humiliation, having to go through checkpoints of various kinds to move around...The situation is appalling."
What pressure can EU put on Israel?
Asked about Israel's rejection of Barack Obama's proposal for a starting point on negotiations, Mr De Rossa said, "Netanyahu's refusal was not a surprise...The question is what pressure we can put on them."
He noted that Europe and Israel have a trade relationship worth billions of euros and that the EU-Israeli trade agreement says any breach of human rights is a breach of that agreement. "We know that there is a breach of the agreement on the Israeli side and yet we do nothing to ensure that the agreement is being complied with."
The Palestinians see the EU calling on Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to behave in a democratic manner and ensure human rights and these principles should be applied throughout the region, including Palestine, he said. "The Palestinians see Europe as not being consistent."
"We cannot be seen to drag our feet. There's a lot at stake, both for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. Security for Israel depends on making a deal with the Palestinians, so that the two states can exist side by side in peace. There's no future for Israel without that. And that will create the nucleus of peace in the rest of the region," Mr De Rossa said.
Future government of Palestine
On 3 May, the two main Palestinian political parties, Fatah and Hamas, signed an agreement to form a transitional government and hold elections within a year. Although Hamas is still considered a terrorist organisation by some, the EU has said it is ready to work with the new government, which will mainly be made up of technocrats and non-party members.
"The Palestinians are entitled to vote for the people that they want to govern them, just like Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans. So we must respect the outcome of the elections, otherwise we will have no credibility in the area," Mr De Rossa said.
EP President Jerzy Buzek, will visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel Sunday 12 June
REF. : 20110526STO20297