22 janvier 2009 4 22 /01 /janvier /2009 08:30
1. What were your impressions when you went to Gaza?
We were all struck by the destruction of dozens of beautiful children crowded around us at the UN schools where they had taken refuge from the bombs that exploded nearby. The desperation of young mothers crying out for help with babies in their arms. The incredibly heroic work of the UN staff, both foreign and locals, that tirellessy work to help people in midst of very dangerous circumstances. Everyone seemed very happy to see us as we were the only European representatives to visit Gaza during the conflict. When the first explosion went off a few hundred meter away our instinct was to look for cover but we were told not to run or to panic. In any case, there was no safe place to go to.
2. What can / should Europe do to ensure the ceasefire is long lasting?
Europe should condition its future relations with Israel to the regular opening of its crossings with Gaza to ensure the regular movement of goods and people, as demanded by International law for any occupying power. The present situation of blockade is an illegal exercise of collective punishment as affirmed by the European Parliament resolution adopted last week. No ceasefire will be stable if we allow the asfixiation of Gaza to go on. The second prerequisite for a stable truce is to take political steps to support a new Palestinian unity agreement that integrates Hamas in the Palestinian Authority (along lines of Mecca Agreement in 2006) and for the EU to initiate contact between the EU and Hamas. Without intra-Palestinian reconciliation and a European dialogue with Hamas it will be impossible to maintain the calm and move toward a meaningful peace process to resolve the general Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The EU should return to the management of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and encourage the sending of UN and/or Islamic country troops to Gaza to maintain the crossings open, to protect the civilian population, to assist in reconstruction and to prevent the launching rockets against Israel. Only a strong EU implication on a political level can turn the present fragile calm into a long-term modus vivendi. This means changing EU policy on Gaza while tackling effectively the issues that are blocking progress on the peace front, such as the expansion of settlements on the West Bank, the movement of people and goods and Palestinian prisoners. All of this can be done while maintaining a firm position in defence of Israel´s security.
If EU policy does not become more forceful the hate sowed in the Gaza war will soon be harvested in new episodes of pain both in the Middle East and here at home.