Has new Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans also abandoned the Palestinians?

20 November 2012

Has new Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans also abandoned the Palestinians?

Uri Rosenthal may no longer be Foreign Minister, but his political spirit appears still to dominate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

SP Senator Tiny Kox is special rapporteur on relations with Palestine for the Council of Europe.

At the end of November Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations to grant his country the status of 'non-member observer state'. It is expected that he will receive a clear majority in favour. President Abbas's request follows the blocking by the United States in the Security Council of the award of full UN membership to the Palestinians.

It is striking to note that the new Dutch government has today announced that the Netherlands will resist this limited raising of Palestine’s status, despite the fact that the Labour Party, to which newly-appointed Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans belongs, has repeatedly argued in favour of just such recognition. This is what it says on Labour’s website, in the section headed ‘Viewpoints’:

"If Israel persists unilaterally in refusing to come to the negotiating table and meanwhile continues building illegal dwellings and settlements in the occupied area, the Palestinian authorities can and should not be punished for this and the international community should support the raising of Palestine’s status in the UN.”

This viewpoint clashes head-on with the position which Timmermans now takes. Uri Rosenthal might well have left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but his political spirit continues to dominate the place. Labour has, moreover, allowed itself once more to be belittled by its right-wing partners in government, the VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. I know that this will be a bitter pill for the Palestinian government, which was counting on a change of direction from The Hague after Rosenthal’s departure.

Timmermans’ decision is also not consistent with the Netherlands’ recent decision to vote for the raising of Palestine’s status in the Council of Europe. Since October 2011 the Palestinian National Congress has been an official 'partner for democracy’ of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This came about as a result of my proposal, which received virtually unanimous backing from the parliaments of forty-seven European countries (the members of the Council of Europe), as well as the delegation from the Israeli Knesset, which enjoys observer status in the Strasbourg assembly. This same assembly also expressed support for further increases in status for Palestine.

I hope therefore that the government of the Netherlands will reverse its position and not leave the Palestinians in the lurch at this important moment in their legitimate attempts to strengthen their position under international law.

Tiny Kox is a Member of the Upper House of the Estates General – the Parliament of the Netherlands – and special rapporteur for the Council of Europe on relations with Palestine.

This article first appeared, in Dutch, on 15th November 2012 on the website joop.nl

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