Spain seeks EU compromise on Palestinians

Sept. 23, 2011 at 2:49 PM
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MADRID, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Spain is leading an urgent EU initiative to forge a broad continent-wide consensus on a compromise over the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition of statehood.

Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Trinidad Jimenez had consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York and long-distance conversations to strike what could be a compromise solution after U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out Palestinian statehood and French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested a one-year delay in giving the Palestinians full U.N. status.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "hung his head in his hands in disbelief and despair" as the U.S. president spoke at the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The Palestinian leadership and pro-Palestinian Arab camp are fraught over the outcome so far after Obama's statements on Palestinian statehood in the U.N. speech earlier in the week.

A lasting peace that ensures Israel's security and defines a state for Palestine won't come "through statements and resolutions at the U.N. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," Obama said, referring to Abbas's bid for statehood.

"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians … who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem," Obama said.

"Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over and our votes have been counted."

Former British diplomat Carne Ross, founder of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group, said the emerging situation "illustrates an eternal truth of the Israel/Palestine dispute at the U.N. The U.N. is not the place where this will get sorted out but there is a more subtle truth, too.

"Thanks to the huge mountain of U.N. resolutions denouncing the occupation and demanding a just resolution, from 242 and 338 onwards, the impression has been created that it is here that the Palestinians will find justice and perhaps progress to liberation. This is a grotesque illusion."

Ross added: "If I were a Palestinian in Gaza or Hebron (which I am not, and am thus ill-placed to judge), I would forget the U.N., and instead start a non-violent uprising. The lessons of the Arab Spring could not be clearer: this is the way to create political change, not pettifogging negotiation over words, commas and procedures in corridors at the U.N."

Yedioth Ahronoth said Obama's U.N. address signaled the president, with an eye on the U.S. election next year, appeared to be abandoning efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

The newspaper said: "Now is the time in which foreign policy makes way for domestic policy. Palestine-out; the Jewish voters in America-in," a translation from the Hebrew carried by Conflicts Forum said.

Yedioth Ahronoth and European diplomatic analysts say that, post-Obama speech, both the Americans and the Europeans are trying to get both sides to back down.

"A certain division of labor appears to have been made," Yedioth Ahronoth said. "The Americans are responsible for giving the stick to the Palestinians and the carrot to the Israelis, while the Europeans are courting the Palestinians and are toughening their position with the Israelis."

It said the "moderates" in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Cabinet are "actively trying to find a compromise solution."

Analysts said the final outcome of the diplomatic activity might well lead to a compromise in which a vote on Palestinian statement was delayed.

"Spain believes that a satisfactory solution can be found through a combination of the initiative to be presented by President Abbas, a future resolution of the General Assembly and a declaration by the Quartet establishing the parameters and timetable for negotiations," a Spanish Foreign Ministry statement said.

The Quartet, established in Madrid in 2002 by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

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