Council of Europe wants to continue with special relationship with Palestine

12 December 2013

Council of Europe wants to continue with special relationship with Palestine

The Council of Europe wants to continue its special relationship with Palestine. A proposal to that effect from SP Senator Tiny Kox attracted unanimous support from the political committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which represents the peoples of the countries affiliated to Europe’s biggest treaty-based organisation.

Tiny KoxA last-minute request from the Israeli observers’ delegation for the decision to be delayed was rejected, to the delight of the Palestinian delegation. Continuation of Palestine’s special partnership with the Council of Europe was sought enthusiastically by all of the political groups there as well as by President Abbas and his government, which Senator Kox had confirmed during a number of working visits. The Israeli delegation argued that his report placed too much blame on Israel for the failure of Palestine to fulfil, as yet, all of the conditions attached to the partnership.

‘Palestine has committed itself to advancing the rule of law, human rights and democracy,’ said Kox. ‘I’m holding the country and its representatives to this and also saying where things must improve. But the illegal occupation by Israel of the biggest part of Palestine, the illegal settlements and the illegal separation wall, make it extremely difficult for the Palestinians to fulfil all of these commitments. Many Palestinian MPs are locked away in Israeli prisons. An end to the occupation would be the biggest step forward for the Palestinian people. Everyone agrees with this, actually, apart from the Israeli government.’

Mahmoud Abbas with Tiny Kox
Mahmoud Abbas with Tiny Kox

The Palestinian delegation expressed its satisfaction with the report. Delegation leader said that he is pleased that the evaluation report shows that under difficult circumstances Palestine had nevertheless made progress. But he recognises that more must be done in relation to a number of important points. The continued use of the death penalty in Gaza, under the control of Hamas, is illegal and inadmissible. Elections must be held throughout Palestine as soon as possible in order to give Palestinian democratic organs more legitimacy. Sabella hopes that the Council of Europe will make it easier for Palestine to accede to a number of the organisation’s important conventions.

Israeli delegation leader Hofman, who was still complimenting the rapporteur on his work during discussion of it this week in Paris, has now adopted a different tone in the Israeli press, claiming that there is a ‘filthy wave of anti-Israel debate. The atmosphere of enmity towards Israel is at its most tangible on the European continent and is being expressed in unfounded decisions without the least logic, such as in this report.’ Hofman links this to the recent decision by Dutch water company Vitens to stop working with its Israeli counterpart Mekorot because of its activities, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory. ‘Israel’s isolation is dangerous and we must step up our diplomatic efforts, together with the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs, to restore Israel’s image in Europe and the whole world.’

Kox was unbothered by the criticism. ‘As rapporteur this week I received unanimous support from colleagues,’ the SP Senator pointed out. ‘I call on the Israeli delegation to make a more constructive contribution, to start putting pressure on the Israeli government to release imprisoned Palestinian MPs so that they can do their work.’

On 28th January PACE will take a definitive decision on continuing cooperation.

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