With key deadlines and expiration dates fast approaching, September seems set to mark a critical juncture in the search for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Our shared hope is that serious and substantive negotiations on the permanent status issues will be underway before this decisive point in time. Direct negotiations may also serve to lock in the modest achievements of the past year, and extend and expand them in accordance with key Road Map obligations.
As chair of the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), Norway has repeatedly stressed the need for a clear political horizon in order to justify the high levels of international donor support to the Palestinian state-building project. Earnest negotiations, backed up by good-faith efforts to create a favourable environment on the ground, are essential to keep the two-state solution clearly in sight.
A credible process on the political track – within the timeframe set by the Middle East Quartet – will help sustain the donor community’s commitment to the parallel effort to build a Palestinian state bottom-up. On the economic track, the Fayyad Government’s plan to prepare for Palestinian statehood within two years remains the platform on which to centre our continued support.
Ultimately, Palestinian statehood cannot be realised without Gaza being an integral part of the Palestinian state-to-be. The West Bank and Gaza must sooner or later be reintegrated as one territorial, political and economic unit.
The recent Israeli decision to ease the blockade of Gaza is a welcome step in the right direction. Now the immediate challenge is to ensure the prompt and effective implementation of the ensuing measures. We are confident that this can be done without prejudice to legitimate Israeli security concerns.
In line with UNSC resolution 1860, the AHLC is taking active part in facilitating these efforts. Through the Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) – a sub-committee of the AHLC – discussions are underway between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and international partners to work out the modalities for implementation of the package.
The reopening of traffic in and out of Gaza is not just a question of stocking the shelves with legally imported goods. Nor is it really an issue of letting in construction materials, however important that is for the reconstruction of Gaza. The overriding objective must be to allow for inbound supplies and outbound exports on a commercial scale that will foster the reversal of the dramatic de-development of Gaza. This requires strengthened capacity and more efficient control procedures at the border crossings.
And let us not forget: it is just as vital to lift the blockade on people. The people of Gaza cannot be fenced in indefinitely. They must be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of movement.
At the end of the day, the impoverished people of Gaza should have the opportunity to claim their rightful place in – and make their indispensable contribution to – a future Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel in peace and security.