Israeli authors urge Belgium to recognize Palestine

Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman among 800 Israeli public figures who sign letter ahead of parliament vote

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Amos Oz in Jerusalem, May 3, 2010 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Amos Oz in Jerusalem, May 3, 2010 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Prominent Israeli authors Amos Oz, David Grossman, and A.B. Yehoshua were among 800 Israeli signatories to a letter sent to the Belgian parliament on Sunday, calling on it to recognize a Palestinian state.

Many of the public figures behind the motion — including 10 Israel Prize winners, Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, five former diplomats, several former MKs, and five ex-ministers — have already submitted the same appeal to the Danish and British parliaments, and will send a draft to other European countries seeking to pass a resolution on Palestine.

“Your initiative to recognize a Palestinian state will advance the peace prospects, and encourage Israelis and Palestinians to reach a resolution to the conflict,” the letter exhorted.

The missive called for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with “Israeli recognition of Palestine, and Palestinian recognition of Israel.” It also decried the “political deadlock and ongoing occupation and settlement, which leads to conflict with the Palestinians, and torpedoes any possibility of an agreement.”

Belgian legislators from the ruling coalition are working on a nonbinding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, adding to a groundswell of support within the European Union.

Even if such a legislative resolution from the government parties comes quickly, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Wednesday he would first push for a new EU initiative to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table to reinvigorate the peace process.

Belgian legislators are completing work on a text and it was expected that a resolution would be tabled quickly, said Peter Luykx, a legislator for the N-VA party, the biggest in Belgium’s four-party ruling coalition.

“We have a first draft text and our ambition is to bring it swiftly to the parliamentary committee” dealing with foreign policy issues, Luykx said in an interview.

He insisted that the resolution wouldn’t show unconditional support for Palestinian statehood, but that “quite a few conditions and strings are attached.”

Reynders told VRT network that in the end, “it will be up to the government to decide when it is suitable to move toward recognition.”

Last Tuesday, France’s lower house voted to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state. On October 30, Sweden became the first Western European nation to recognize Palestinian statehood. Parliamentarians in in Britain, Spain and Ireland have approved nonbinding motions urging recognition.

Israel has denounced the votes as counterproductive to peace efforts.

“Israel believes the vote in the National Assembly, which supports recognition of the state of Palestine, will only distance the chances of reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

“Such decisions will only make the Palestinian positions more extreme and sends the wrong message to the leaders and peoples of this region,” he said. A solution to the conflict will only be found through direct negotiations between the two parties and not through unilateral actions, Nahshon added.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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