‘Let’s talk about it’: EU’s Borrell presses Israel on two-state solution

EU foreign policy chief says Israel’s plan to destroy Hamas in Gaza is not working as bloc’s foreign ministers meet.

European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a joint news conference with Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib in Beirut, Lebanon January 6
Borrell says Israel cannot build peace 'only by military means' [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

The European Union’s foreign policy chief has insisted on a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, saying Israel’s plan to destroy the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza is not working.

Ahead of talks with Israeli and Palestinian top diplomats, Josep Borrell on Monday said Israel cannot build peace “only by military means” as he echoed the United Nations’ condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “unacceptable” rejection of calls for a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza.

“What we want to do is to build a two-state solution. So let’s talk about it,” Borrell said. “Which are the other solutions they have in mind? To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill off them?”

The bloc’s 27 foreign ministers are set to hold separate meetings with their counterparts from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and key Arab states in Brussels on Monday as the violence in the Gaza Strip continues.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also backed Borrell, saying a two-state solution is the “only solution” to the conflict and would allow for the peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

“All those who say they don’t want to hear about such a solution have not brought any alternative”, she added, while also calling for an urgent “humanitarian pause” to what has been described by several governments and rights groups as a genocidal campaign in Gaza.

Netanyahu on Sunday reaffirmed a hard line against any Palestinian state, saying it would pose “an existential danger” to Israel.

Referring to Israel’s objective in its devastating three-month-old war in Gaza, Borrell told reporters: “To say that destruction of Hamas is the aim is one-sided, because it means that it will be up to Israel to decide when they think [Hamas] has become weak enough. We can’t go on working like this.”

Israel’s massive aerial and ground offensive in small, densely populated Gaza has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, according to authorities, and displaced most of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Israel says the war could go on for “many months” and it would not rest until Hamas was eradicated, all Israeli captives freed and Gaza posed no more security threat.

The war in Gaza has plunged the Middle East into fresh turmoil and sparked fears of a broader conflict.

Ahead of the Brussels meeting, the EU’s diplomatic service sent a discussion paper to its 27 member countries, suggesting a roadmap to peace in the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the heart of the plan is a call for a “preparatory peace conference” to be organised by the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, with the United States and United Nations also invited to be conveners of the gathering.

An internal document, seen by multiple news agencies, says if Israelis or Palestinians declined to take part, the two parties would be consulted at every step of the talks as delegates sought to draw up a peace plan.

The document makes clear one key goal of the peace plan should be the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security”.

Netanyahu’s office said on Saturday after a phone call with US President Joe Biden that Israel must retain security control over Gaza “to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty”.

Source: News Agencies