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Upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s status to a non-member observer state must be a step towards Palestinian-Israeli negotiations

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JCall, the pro-Israel, pro peace European network, takes note of the United Nations General Assembly’s decision to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status to a non-member observer state.

Because negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have stalled, a large number of countries, among which some of Israel’s long term allies, have resolved to back the Palestinians’ UN bid which, although unilateral, is rooted in a legitimate claim: the Palestinians’ right to a sovereign and viable state.

JCall remains convinced that the only way to peace is direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority’s upgraded status creates a new situation which must exploited in a positive way.

First, the two-state solution, which alone can end the conflict, gains international recognition and is therefore strengthened. It is a defeat for those who, on each side, deny the other people’s right to self determination, including those who attack Israel’s legitimacy.

Second, it is a political success for the moderates on the Palestinian side and first of all for President Abbas who has clearly chosen to abandon violent means of action and several times expressed his will to establish a Palestinian state next to, and not in the place of, Israel.

JCall nonetheless considers that the upgraded status gives the Palestinian Authority new obligations: to re-establish its authority over Gaza and to end the rocket attacks on Israel which have not ceased since 2005 when the strip was evacuated; and to accept to resume negotiations with Israel without pre-conditions.

JCall therefore calls upon the Palestinians to refrain from any attempt to take the conflict to the courts: any legal action against the state of Israel or its leaders at the International Criminal Court would destroy the very possibility of negotiation.

All the same, JCall calls upon the Israeli government not to use the Palestinian UN bid as a pretext either to take financial retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority or to pursue settlement policy. Such measures inevitably strengthen those who, around the world, picture Israel as sole responsible for the continuation of the conflict. In particular, the settlement policy is the main reason why Israel finds itself increasingly isolated on the diplomatic front and is key to understanding why a large number of countries have supported the Palestinian UN bid.

JCall hopes the Palestinian Authority’s upgraded status is but a step towards Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The parameters to end the conflict are known to all: the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and a negotiated solution to the issue of refugees.

It is up to Israeli as well as Palestinian leaders to rise to the challenge and fulfil their peoples’ aspirations for peace. President Abbas claims he would be willing to resume negotiations after the General Assembly’s vote. During his last official visit to Paris, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was ready to resume negotiations “today”. It is urgent they both hold their word.

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