Bringing peace to the middle east: SP foreign affairs spokesman's observations after visiting the region

22 July 2007

Bringing peace to the middle east: SP foreign affairs spokesman's observations after visiting the region

SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel recently spent a week in the Middle East as a member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. The delegation first visited Israel before going on to the Palestinian Territory on the West Bank of the Jordan, then to Jordan and finally to Syria. Van Bommel and his parliamentary colleagues had the opportunity to talk to politicians from all sides, UN employees, human rights organisations, refugees, journalists and a range of NGOs. On his return, he summed up his experiences and the political conclusions he had drawn from them.

“I left this for a few days after I got back,” Harry explained, “as if you do it straight away you run the risk of basing it too much on emotion. This was perhaps the most interesting trip I've taken in connection with my work in nine years as a member of parliament, and there was certainly plenty of cause for emotion.” These were Harry's political conclusions:

Conversation with refugees

  1. A political solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is possible only if all of the political parties, including Hamas, are involved in the political process. Boycotting is equivalent to the denial of political reality. Europe - and therefore the Netherlands - will have to change its attitude.
  2. A political solution is made more difficult by the persistent violence of both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. A truce is needed. Attacks from Gaza and suicide attacks by Palestinians must stop. Israel must call a halt to attacks on targets in Gaza and to the policy of extra-judicial executions. The EU has the economic means to put pressure on both parties and should no longer hesitate to use these.
  3. There needs to be a Middle East conference for which the Saudi peace initiative could serve as a starting point: all of the countries in the region would recognise Israel and conclude a peace agreement with the country. At the same time a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders would be established.
  4. Remaining major obstacles to peace should be removed: an end to the settlements and to the wall around the Palestinian Territory. End the occupation!
  5. In Jordan Islamic radicalisation is lying in wait, and dangerous. For this reason it is of great importance that the country carries out reforms and works towards political and economic stability. Financial aid is needed for the reception of large numbers of refugees from Iraq. More cooperation and trade with the member states of the EU is urgently needed.
  6. The relationship between Israel and Syria can only be improved if Israel puts an end to the occupation of the Golan Heights. It is scandalous that the international community – including the Netherlands – is helping, by its presence, to make this occupation possible. The Golan Heights is of great economic significance for Israel (30% of the water supply comes from there) but belongs to Syria. This is what is meant by ‘without justice, no peace!’
  7. The boycott of Syria is counterproductive. It is driving the country into the arms of Iran and even the (illegal) opposition in Syria does not want the regime to collapse. We should be helping Syria to take small steps on the path towards democratisation. Compared to countries in the region such as Egypt, Syria has relatively few political prisoners.
  8. Syria can break its isolation if it can yet conclude an association agreement with the EU (which the EU refused at the last minute) and receive aid for the reception of refugees from Iraq.

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