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…