No hope for justice for the Palestinians with the May-Trump-Netanyahu alliance. The Ambassador meets SNP Leader at Westminster, Angus RobertsonFeb. 2, 2017, midnight
Last Tuesday, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian met with The Rt. Hon. Angus Robertson, the SNP Leader at Westminster, who visited Palestine last November. The Ambassador briefed him on recent political developments taking place in Palestine and voiced his criticism of the current British government and Theresa May’s hostile policies towards the Palestinians, as well as her statements which have been orchestrated to resonate with Trump’s hostile discourse.
Angus Robertson said that seeing the facts on the ground had been a sobering and depressing experience. He visited Hebron, Jerusalem and Shuafat refugee camp. He met with the Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah and also had meeting with UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The SNP Westminster Leader said his visit was very much of an eye-opener and it had been of crucial importance to him to see the current reality in Palestine. One factor he had not been aware of was just how much in close proximity everything was, especially the settlements to Palestinian communities. He said he believed ‘settlements’ was the wrong word to use because it is a word that connotes something temporary whereas sadly they have been built and planned to be permanent.
A key point of interest for him had been his meeting with UNOCHA, particularly the briefing on how the Israeli occupying authorities use mapping strategies, planning and the permit system in the Palestinian areas as a key strategy of control. He saw how this had a crucial impact on housing and urban planning for the Palestinians. He thought this was of key importance for him to see and understand, although it was acutely depressing. He found that seeing what was happening for himself reinforced his view that working for a two-state solution was a matter of urgency. He said that Scotland was ready to offer a space wherein it could help both sides talk about a potential outcome.
Mr. Robertson said he condemned outright Netanyahu’s recent announcement that Israel planned to build 2500 more illegal settlement units. He also did not mince his words in expressing his deep concern about the Trump administration and his proposal to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. He was highly critical of the UK government’s present position, particularly its stance at the Paris Peace Conference. He said that the current UK government was pivoting to the right-wing and inward-looking administration in the US which was very worrying.
HE Ambassador Hassassian echoed the sentiments of Angus Robertson. He had been dismayed that the UK government had sent such a low profile delegation to attend the Paris Peace Conference, refusing to sign the concluding statement and blocking the European Council of Foreign Affairs from adopting it. He talked about the contradictions in British policy and quite frankly the hypocrisy it displayed. Despite its role in drafting UN Resolution 2334 it was not ready to take any concrete action, such as banning products from illegal Israeli settlements.
The Ambassador was also highly critical about Britain’s intent to ‘mark’ the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, expressing pride in its role in the creation of Israel which any informed person knows was at the expense of the Palestinians. The Ambassador was emphatic that such a position towards Israel and, at the same time, acting tough on the Palestinians was not conducive to bringing both sides together. There was an urgent need for a third party to act as an honest broker and depart from US policy and its past dismal crisis management of the conflict while the new US President, Donald Trump, it seems, will only exacerbate the compulsive violence with his myopic vision. HE Manuel Hassassian expressed the view that Netanyahu was living in a golden age with Trump in the White House, especially if Trump goes ahead with his proposal to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem which will be tantamount to accepting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such a move may encourage other western countries to follow suit which would be disastrous. Such a move by the US would lead the PLO to rescind its recognition of Israel.
The Ambassador also alluded to the recent remarks of Netanyahu, wherein, he proposed giving the Palestinians “a state minus”, an entity less than a state, which would herald the end of the two-state solution or rather two-state delusion! He was emphatic that Netanyahu was not serious about peace or giving up any occupied land. Israeli society, also, did not seem ready for peace. This would force the Palestinians to adopt any diplomatic means available to them, to advocate through international organisations and pursue Israel in the international courts.
The Ambassador concluded the meeting by saying that with a May-Trump-Netanyahu alliance, Palestinians have very little hope. It was only those in the international community who believed in the righteousness of the Palestinian cause that could help now. There was a need for the use of political teeth and for concrete actions to make Israel pay for the cost of its occupation.
Israel cannot convince the world anymore that it is the victim. The Palestinians are a pursuing a path for peace and against violence and there is an urgent necessity for honest brokers who can create conducive conditions for a way forward.
Finally, Angus Robertson, reiterated the SNP position which was its continuing support for the two-state solution.