Situation in the Middle East
Delivered in Plenary - January 26th 2005
I welcome the free and democratic election of President Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority. As an election observer, I was delighted to see the enthusiasm by civil society, including women, to participate in this experiment, unique in the Arab world. In spite of calls by Hamas for a boycott, even that organisation, afraid of being frozen out of the political process, is now talking of taking part in the parliamentary elections. Abu Mazen now has a strong mandate to negotiate with Israel.
I was disappointed at the low turnout in East Jerusalem and the fear of Palestinians resident there that they would lose their Israeli IDs if they voted. I was unhappy at the refusal of many polling-station officials to cooperate in releasing turnout figures and the size of the electoral list. There was some confusion between domestic and international observers, which must be sorted out before the parliamentary elections in July.
I thank the IDF for its cooperation at checkpoints. After the temporary setback caused by the tragic death of six Israelis in Gaza, President Abbas is now making a vigorous attempt to rein in the terrorists by deploying his security forces to the Gaza border. I call upon Prime Minister Sharon to recognise this by restoring diplomatic contacts with the Palestinian Authority and putting the roadmap for peace back on the political agenda.
I am convinced that a comprehensive peace plan through territorial exchange, which consolidates the security of the Jewish State, is possible. I also believe the security fence has proven its value in reducing suicide-bomber attacks, does not reflect the final borders of the Israeli State and can be moved or dismantled when a peace treaty is finally signed.
The recent polls in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza support the Geneva Accords as one such peace model. Why not a simultaneous official plebiscite by both sides to reinforce mutual recognition of the two-state solution?
Lastly, the role of Iran – with tacit Syrian support in arming and funding Hizbollah, hell-bent on derailing Abu Mazen’s peace policy by supporting local terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza – is very dangerous. Iran and Syria must be warned off by the European Union and Hizbollah must be made a banned EU terrorist organisation.