This is a transcript of an interview with Terje Rod-Larsen, President of IPI, conducted by commentator Manuel Marold on August 30th on Mittagsjournal, the noontime news show on OE1, the main radio station of Austria’s public broadcaster ORF.
Marold: Israel is angered by the Palestinian plan to apply for the recognition of a Palestinian state and full UN membership at the United Nations in September. A Palestinian state could only come into existence through negotiations, not through a unilateral action by Palestine, so the argument goes in Israel.
The President of the International Peace Institute in New York, Terje Rød-Larsen, is afraid that Israel might resort to sanctions, should the Palestinians take matters to the United Nations. Israel could annul the Oslo Accords, for example, a peace agreement which has brought the Palestinian territories their present state of autonomy.
Rød-Larsen: If the Israelis annul the Oslo accords, this could lead to a very precarious situation. For example, according to the Oslo accords, Israel collects taxes for Palestine and passes these on to the Palestinians. This is one of the key sources of revenue for Palestine.
Marold: Israel could hold back these tax revenues. Other sanctions are also conceivable, for example, Israel could impose restrictions on the freedom of travel of Palestinian politicians, for instance, that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This would further worsen relations between Israelis and Palestinians, according to Rød-Larsen.
Rod-Larsen: At the moment there is brinkmanship on both sides and negotiations are deadlocked. It would be good if Israel and Palestine returned to the negotiating table before the UN becomes involved. But the more time passes, the lower the likelihood of this happening.
Marold: The Palestinians want to unite the international community in favor of their cause during the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York. A majority of countries is in favor of recognition. But practically, politically, it will depend on those who mediate in the conflict – the US and the EU – and they do not agree.
The US has been trying for weeks to dissuade the Palestinians from carrying out their plan and haspreemptively threatened a veto.
Rød-Larsen: Israel is the most important ally of the US in the Middle East. The US and Israel are deeply intertwined. It would be difficult for the US to do something that is against the will of Israel.
Marold: Terje Rød-Larsen says, “The ball is in the EU’s court.” In the EU there is so far no agreement on how to deal with the Palestinian plan. Some countries such as Germany and Italy are against a Palestinian state. Great Britain and France would be in favor. Rød-Larsen says it is important now for the EU to quickly agree on a common position. Europe can negotiate with Israel as well as with Palestine. Contrary to the US, the party enjoys the trust of both sides. Rød-Larsen believes that if the EU mediates in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, this could calm the situation.