In break, top EU official suggests Israel-Palestine ‘confederation’
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In break, top EU official suggests Israel-Palestine ‘confederation’

Despite official European stance supporting two-state solution, parliament head brings up possibility conflict can be solved with different arrangement

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz is seen before receiving an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University, during a ceremony in Jerusalem, on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz is seen before receiving an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University, during a ceremony in Jerusalem, on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

The Israeli-Palestinian could be solved either through a two-state solution or a “confederation,” a top European Union official said last week, in what appears to be a suggestion in sharp contrast to official EU policy.

“Peace in the Middle East is possible only if the mother of all conflicts, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, is resolved and both peoples live together in two states or a confederation,” Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said Thursday during a speech in Düsseldorf, according to a report in a German Jewish weekly.

It is unclear what exactly Schulz meant when he invoked the term “confederation” (Staatenbund in German) as an alternative to a two-state solution. Staatenbund usually refers to a league of states in which each state retains full sovereignty.

The EU’s declared foreign policy unambiguously calls for a two-state solution. “A negotiated two state solution is the only way to bring the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said earlier this month.

In July, the union’s 28 foreign ministers declared their commitment to the creation of an “independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable State of Palestine.” They reaffirmed “that there is no alternative to a negotiated two state solution.”

Schulz’s spokesperson and the EU’s foreign service in Brussels had not replied to Times of Israel queries by the time of publication of this report.

While the idea of a confederation has been suggested before, it has usually been dismissed as tantamount to a one-state solution, which could mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Schulz made the remarks after receiving a prize for his “courageous engagement for Middle East peace” by a group called German Initiative for the Middle East, or DINO, which was co-founded in 2006 by the former head of the German Jewish community Paul Spiegel.

Speaking to 120 guests at the event, Schulz said that the violence in Israel has become “uncontrollable” since both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have “only very little influence on the population,” he said,

The German-born Schulz further said that Israel had the right to protect its citizens in face of the current terror wave, but needs to safeguard the principle of proportionality, according to DINO’s website. Peace and security will only come to the region when a Palestinian state is created, he was quoted as saying.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (C) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein (L), in Jerusalem, February 12, 2014. (Isaac Harari/Flash 90)
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (C) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein (L), in Jerusalem, February 12, 2014. (Isaac Harari/Flash 90)

In February 2014, Schulz caused a minor diplomatic incident in Jerusalem when, during a generally pro-Israel speech in the Knesset, he appeared to accuse the government of limiting the amount of water Palestinians may consume.

Speaking in his mother tongue German, Schulz recounted a meeting held two days earlier with young Palestinians in Ramallah. “One of the questions from these young men that moved me the most was: How can it be that Israelis are allowed to use 70 liters [of water] per day and Palestinians only 17?” Schulz related.

At this point in his speech, several right-wing MKs yelled out in protest, calling the figures Palestinian lies, and a number of Jewish Home party lawmakers walked out. A short while later, Netanyahu accused Schulz of having “selective hearing.”

Then-economy minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett also took Schulz to task, demanding an apology. “I will not accept false moralizing against the people of Israel, in Israel’s Knesset. Certainly not in German,” Bennett stated at the time. (They made peace a week later, when Schulz assured him that he would always stand with Israel.)

Schulz, who hails from Aachen, Germany, became the European Parliament’s president in 2012. He first made worldwide headlines in 2003, when former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi told him that he was the perfect candidate to play a kapo in a Nazi movie.

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