Europe got it right… in 1980

Thirty years ago, Europe advocated self-determination for the Palestinian people. In the aftermath of the Israeli army attack on the Gaza flotilla, two Israeli authors argue that it remains the only viable solution to the Middle East conflict.

Published on 14 June 2010 at 13:29

Thirty years ago, on a Friday the 13th in June, a declaration issued by the European Community broke new ground by backing “self-determination” for the Palestinian people and urging that the Palestine Liberation Organization be “associated with” the negotiations for peace in the Middle East.

Coming in the midst of U.S. efforts to launch negotiations between Israel and Egypt on Palestinian autonomy, in accordance with the peace treaty signed by the two countries a year earlier, the “Venice declaration” stunned Jerusalem and jarred some nerves in Washington.

The Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, read out one of the most livid statements in the annals of diplomacy. Calling the P.L.O. “the Arab S.S.” and comparing the European declaration to the appeasement of Hitler, he thundered: “Any man of good will and any free person in Europe who would examine this document would see in it a Munich-like surrender, the second in our generation, to tyrannical extortion, and an encouragement to all the elements which aspire to defeat the peace process in the Middle East.”

After that, it is not surprising that neither Brussels nor Jerusalem is eager to commemorate its anniversary. But revisiting Venice offers an opportunity to evaluate how the declaration has fared with the passage of time — and to recognize a visionary moment in European Mideast policy. Read full article in the New York Times

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