Press Releases Gaza/Israel: Intervention of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain

Gaza/Israel: Intervention of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain

Thank you. Let me first thank you for your invitation. The Manama Forum is the place to be, in particular in these challenging times. Happy to be here in Bahrain, which means ‘between two seas’. And this goes beyond geography. Bahrain is a country between different forces, different traditions, a country that plays a moderating role in this region, a role that is much needed and much appreciated in this time of extreme polarisation because the rise of emotional polarisation and the gap between people, governments, is one of the most important challenges of our time. A country that is a beacon in the region and in the world, so thank you very much to the Manama Forum and to the authorities of Bahrain for hosting us.

I want to pay tribute to His Excellency the Crown Prince of Bahrain, who took a bold step beyond the official position of Arab partners last night condemning both sides of the conflict, Hamas and Israel, for what has resulted [in] a tremendous loss of human lives, livelihoods, and hope. And hope in a better future.

We have to move from war to peace. To de-escalation. And for that we have diplomacy, diplomacy is the tool, our most valuable instrument, but we are far from getting results. I am trying to talk with my mind and my heart also, because I am coming from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, and one has to be able to say the same things everywhere.

I would be easy here to get your applause, but if my words had to have meaning. [They] have to be the same when I am talking to the Israelis face to face, when I am talking to the families of the people being kidnapped, when I am talking to the families of the victims in the kibbutz, and when I am thinking [about] the families of people being killed in Gaza.

I know it is not easy. I know it is not easy to represent here the European Union. Last year it was much easier. It was just necessary to blame Iran to being applauded. Today it is going to be a little bit more difficult, I know. But I will face this challenge. Honestly. And I think that there are two dimensions.

First humanitarian or, if you want to call it, the way the war is being conducted by Israel in Gaza. And from this point of view, I am fully agreeing with you, Minister Safadi, on the data you have been providing, about the number of casualties, I am not going to repeat that.

The suffering of civilian populations will only increase if we are not able to stop this. And we are working on this. We have increased our humanitarian aid. And certainly we have to do more. But it does not make any sense to give me a dinner tonight, if you are going to kill me tomorrow. So yes, humanitarian support is needed, but what is more needed is to stop the cause that humanitarian aid is needed.

And the second one is the political stage. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv I met with UN agencies, and they painted a dire picture. They know how the situation is in Gaza. And when you go and you visit the kibbutz and you see what is happening there, you can only think one thing: one horror does not justify another horror. And after the humanitarian stage, there will be unavoidably a political stage and the end game is well known. It is the two state solution.

However, I hesitate to talk about it. Not because I don’t believe in it [or] because I see any other solution. I hesitate because we have been repeating once and again for 30 years: two state solution. Since Oslo’s time. 30 years ago. Two state solution, two state solution, two state solution. And doing nothing or almost nothing to implement it. And I think that, by repeating two state solution while doing nothing to implement it, we have been giving tactical coverage to the strategy of expanding settlements in the West Bank. In Oslo times there were X and now there are 4 times X: 4 times more settlers. And the Palestinian territory has been reduced to an archipelago of small pieces of land not interconnected among them which makes much more difficult the two state solution that we are preaching.

That is why six months ago I started working with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Arab League in a very enthusiastic way to try to revive this process, to take that in the centre of the stage. Because it is a fallacy that we could solve the problem in the region thinking we could have agreements between Arab States and the State of Israel, forgetting about the Palestinians. They are there. And they have to be taken into account. And there has to be also peace between Israel and Palestine. Otherwise there will not be peace and no security in the region and in the world.

And I think the Europeans and the Arabs have a particular responsibility to engage more in looking for a solution. However, what haunts me is that this mantra that has been repeated once and again maybe was a way of washing our hands and keep them clear. And we have never delivered.

Therefore talking about the two state solution without defining the progressive and provisional steps to get there, that can one day lead to it, is not useful. And this is an occasion. Maybe it is a wake-up call for the international community in order to take that seriously. And that’s why I have been talking about some way of getting out of that. I was in Tokyo also discussing with my friend [UN] Secretary [Anthony] Blinken and others. And certainly there are some red lines that we have to define.

These red lines are: no re-occupation and no forced displacement of population. Well, but when you say ‘forced displacement of population’, think about it. When you are being bombed [and are] starving, you will [be] displaced. Serious forced displacement of population. We mean no forced displacement of population out of Gaza because Gaza is a Palestinian territory and should remain a Palestinian territory. So no separation from the territory of Gaza from the West bank and East Jerusalem. There are no three Palestinian territories. There is one Palestinian territory. So no reduction of the territory of Gaza. Certainly no return to the status quo. No more terrorist attacks from Gaza and against Israel, and this means that Hamas cannot be in control of Gaza any longer.

So who will be in control of Gaza? I think only one could do that. The Palestinian authority. I was in Ramallah , they told me they are ready and willing to take this responsibility. In fact, right now, the schools, the hospitals, the public services in Gaza are being run by the Palestinian authority. They are paying for it. And there are tens of thousands of staff from the Palestinian authority serving the people in Gaza. But they will need international support. It is not a matter of replacing them, it is a matter of supporting and helping them. And this will require a strong involvement of the Arab countries in the economic and political reconstruction of Gaza, not only the physical reconstruction of Gaza.

I was in Gaza in 2008, after the first bombing of the city, and since then we have reconstructed Gaza physically four times. It is not a matter of rebuilding the buildings. It is a matter of building states. Statehood. And the Arab countries need to take their political responsibilities. And in particular those among you that have a good relations with Israel and also have been trusted by the Palestinian authority. I think Egypt and Jordan have a crucial role to play now but also Saudi Arabia and all of you.

And finally, we the European Union we too need to engage more in looking for a solution. We all need peace between Israelis and Palestinians, more than ever, because never has the polarisation between the north and the south, and within our societies, as alarming as it is today. Thousands of anti-Semitic acts have been deplored in Western societies. This has to be fought.

Yes, Israel deserves security and the Palestinians deserve dignity. Yes Israel deserves security, and the Palestinians in the West Bank too deserve security. More than 400 of them have been killed since the beginning of the year. So I said clearly in the kibbutz, I said clearly in Ramallah, everywhere; one horror does not justify another. And enduring peace and security cannot be delivered  without a political process.

People have no responsibility for the crimes committed in the kibbutz. They don’t have to pay for it. Peace has never seemed too far away. But maybe this is an opportunity that we cannot miss. As my friend Shimon Peres told me once: ‘war is not inevitable, peace is inevitable’. And as European, I can attest [to] you that this is true. Peace is possible. The only question is: how many innocent lives will need to be lost until we get this realisation? This lies in our hands. Let’s work for it.

Thank you.


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