The Price of a just peace in the Middle East is a return to the fundamentals of international law

September 19, 2006 9:27 | by Francis Wurtz

The President of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left group of Members of teh European Parliament, made the following speech during the European Parliament's debate on the situation on the Middle East held in Strasbourg on 6 September 2006.

What we lived through this summer, should, in every respect, be totally inconceivable in this day and age.

First of all, one nation, Israel, on the one hand bombs and starves the civilian population of Gaza, kidnaps ministers and parliamentarians who join the 8000 Palestinian prisoners already being held and causes over 200 deaths among the people of this small territory which has become, according to Mr Jan Egeland, coordinator of the UN's humanitarian affairs, "a ticking timebomb". Then this same army pounds Lebanon with bombs for 34 days without making - according to the terms of Human Rights Watch - "any distinction between civilian and military targets"; causing the death of 1100 civilians; provoking the forced displacement of a quarter of the population; imposing a total blockade on the country; "deliberately targeting" - as emphasised by Kofi Annan - and killing observers in the international peacekeeping force; destroying - according to the UNDP - 15000 homes and 78 bridges; wiping out the country's vital infrastructure: ports, airports, power stations; provoking a gigantic oil slick; using shells which hold up to 644 explosive devices, 100000 of which continue to blindly kill men, women and children...

Secondly, a superpower, the United States, participates closely in the strategy of its ally -, both in Palestine and in Lebanon, in the name of the "war against terrorism" which is already in operation in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Its Secretary of State compares the suffering of the Lebanese people to the "birth pangs of the New Middle East". It delivers increasingly sophisticated weapons to Israel, at full-scale war, and refuses for over one month of bitter combat to call for a ceasefire, despite strong demands by the Lebanese government and by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Thirdly, and finally, an institution that is particularly close to us, the Council (of Ministers of the European Union, ed.), not only turned out for a long time to be incapable of demanding a ceasefire - despite the noteworthy attempt by the Finnish presidency and the unanimous call in this respect by the Parliament's Conference of Presidents -. Furthermore it even finds excuses for the behaviour of the Israeli army by invoking the right to "self-defence"! In as much as it was legitimate to condemn the initial capture of Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah, then in particular by its serious decision to counterattack following the Israeli bombings of Lebanese cities by firing missiles at Israeli cities - committing in its turn crimes against the civil population - the green light granted de facto, for many long days, to Israel to carry out and pursue this terrifying war also arouses our stupefaction and revolt!

Therefore we cannot be satisfied today and in future with only speaking about European contributions to UNIFIL and reconstruction - as important as this double challenge may be -. We must draw with clarity and in a spirit of responsibility the lessons from this painful experience. First and foremost the following: at the heart of all the paroxysms shaking the Middle East, which increase dramatically day by day for the civilian populations and become increasingly dangerous for international security, there is the occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and Israel's obstinacy in refusing the application of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

But the European Union has taken the pressure off this crucial demand for peace. What initiative has it taken to relaunch the Quartet's "Roadmap"? What did it do to enhance the value of the Arab League's Plan in 2002 which proposed normalising relations with Israel against recognition of the Palestinian state? What has it done to get Israeli leaders to face up to their historic responsibilities? Instead of that, it suspended aid to the Palestinian institutions; stripped the democratically elected government and parliament of their legitimacy; ignored the courageous efforts by President Mahmoud Abbas to rebuild national understanding; and accepted without any further reaction the closing of the only points of passage between Gaza and other countries of which it was officially in control. I would hope that the joint decisions taken in the last few days are the sign that Europe is pulling itself together vis-à-vis the whole Middle East.

At this point in time, a choice must be made between the Bush concept of the "war against terrorism" and the return to the fundamentals of international law. I think that this is the price of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and Europe's credibility in the world too.

Francis Wurtz is a Member of the European Parliament for the French Communist Party and President of the GUE/NGL.

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