SP Senator Kox: Pessimism growing rapidly in Palestine

19 July 2012

SP Senator Kox: Pessimism growing rapidly in Palestine

'It’s extremely sad to see how little the rest of the world is doing to give the Palestinians what they have long been promised: their own independent state next to Israel. After forty-five years of illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, more and more Palestinians see their future in an extremely gloomy light. And that’s going to lead to new unrest in the powder keg that is the Middle East.’ This was SP Senator Tiny Kox’s conclusion at the end of his working visit to Palestine as the special rapporteur for the Council of Europe.

Tiny KoxDuring the last few days Senator Kox has held talks with the Palestinian government, the Palestinian Parliament and a number of interest groups on the results of the first year of the new partnership between the Palestinian Parliament and the Council of Europe, noting that the feeling amongst Palestinians is extraordinarily pessimistic. 'Last year there was still movement,’ says Kox. ‘President Abbas managed to persuade the obstructive Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to accept a reconciliation agreement, making elections possible. At my suggestion Palestine received a special status within the Council of Europe, and applied for membership of the United Nations. A majority of UN member states appeared to support this request, but the United States succeeded in having it blocked by the Security Council. After this the reconciliation with Hamas also ran into difficulties. In the meantime Israel is grabbing large slices of Palestinian territory, installing new illegal settlements. Half a million people are now living on stolen land. And the whole country has been cut into pieces by a wall several metres high, which the International Court of Justice in The Hague has declared to be in conflict with international law, but which is constantly growing longer and more barbaric.'

Peace talks with Israel are frozen. International intervention from the major powers has thus far led nowhere. 'This week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Israel and Palestine once again, for the first time in two years,’ notes Kox. ‘But in the run-up to the presidential elections, President Obama evidently doesn’t dare to move a millimetre, despite his promise at the beginning of his term that he would steer Palestine into the United Nations as an independent new state. And according to the Palestinians Europe is too busy with its own affairs as a result of the economic crisis to concern itself with finding a way out for the Palestinian people, who have now had to live under Israeli occupation for almost fifty years.’

The Dutch government has made an extremely bad impression, or so Kox heard. 'Foreign Minister Rosenthal has done great damage to the Netherlands’ good name with his anti-Palestinian actions,’ says the Senator. ‘But other European governments aren’t doing much at the moment either. And while the European Union helps to keep all sorts of infrastructure in the Palestinian territory on its feet financially, it takes no initiatives aimed at realising actual political progress. That gives you reason enough to be pessimistic.’

In November American presidential elections take place, and in January Israeli parliamentary elections will probably follow. ‘During my visit the grand coalition in Israel came to a sudden end, so that the Israeli electorate will shortly be voting again,’ Kox explains. Whether this can change political relations and make possible the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians is impossible to say. It’s also important that President Obama, if he is re-elected, shows some courage and keeps his promises to the Palestinian people.’

In the meantime it’s up to the Palestinians themselves to come to an internal settlement in order to make elections possible. 'Probably the new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi can use his influence on Hamas in this regard,’ says Kox. ‘While I was in Palestine, President Abbas was in Cairo to speak with Morsi about this.’ For the time being Hamas will do whatever they want to, Kox observes. ‘During my time in Gaza three people were executed. This was completely illegal as Palestine has a moratorium on the death penalty and has committed itself with the Council of Europe not to carry out death sentences. In the name of the Council of Europe I immediately issued a declaration confirming this. Those who currently exercise power in Gaza will be held to account, including for these executions.

'What is certainly going to happen,’ Kox continues, ‘is that in October the people of the West Bank will hold new local elections. In Gaza these elections have been postponed until Hamas cooperates. The Council of Europe will be asked to send observers to these elections. I agreed this with the Secretary General of the Central Electoral Council.’

Kox also gathered information on developments in Palestine in relation to human rights. In that context he spoke with a number of people, including the president of the High Court, the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission and representatives of Palestinian human rights organisations. ‘In many areas Palestine is, despite all of its problems, nevertheless an example to other countries in that part of the world,’ he says. ‘But if no end is put to the occupation this achievement could also be put in jeopardy. I hope that the international community is going to realise that doing nothing is not an option, that it would be asking for still greater problems in the region.’

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