Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Editorial | A delicate policy on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 1:00 AM

Although there are no signs that it's on the agenda, we still expect that Andrew Holness will make a fulsome statement on his recent visit to Israel, given the seeming absence of a specifically declared diplomatic context of the visit and the omission of the foreign minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, from the prime minister's delegation.

Mr Holness will be aware partly because of the timing of his visit and some interpretations of tone of his public discourse with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu of the questions in some diplomatic quarters whether his excursion signalled the start, if not continuation, of a subtle shift in the Israeli-Palestinian policy which Jamaica has maintained for the better part of four decades. Essentially, Jamaica, across administrations, has supported a two-state solution, based on the borders before the 1967 war, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has been opposed to Israel's construction of settlements on Palestinian lands.

Indeed, it is policy to which the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration, led by Bruce Golding, adhered to and clearly articulated at the United Nations in 2011 by the then foreign minister, Ken Baugh. He said: "Jamaica remains unwavering in its support for a just, lasting and comprehensive agreement that recognises a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and guarantees security for Israel." Jamaica, in that statement, called, too, for a "cessation of settlement building and expansion in the occupied territories".

There was no indication that the core of this policy, reaffirmed by the People's National Party administration of 2012-2016, had shifted. So, it is possibly of no consequence that in delivering Jamaica's statement to the UN general assembly last September, Mr Holness made no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian matter.

The issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to be of concern to the international community. In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning their continued construction and expansion, without as would normally be the case with any resolution criticising Israel an America veto. The Obama administration abstained, suggesting the global community's and the Obama administration's exasperation with Mr Netanyahu's hard-line stance.

 

NO INDICATION

 

While it may have happened behind closed doors, there was no indication of any of these sensitive geopolitical issues being discussed by Mr Holness and Mr Netanyahu, except for the Israeli's PM's public praise for Jamaica for not being part of "the absurd vote in UNESCO" critical of Israel's behaviour in East Jerusalem, a world heritage site, considered to part of occupied Palestinian territory.

The closest Mr Holness came in his public statements to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to "wish peace for the peoples of the world" and to "extend our sympathies to the people of Israel for the attacks on your soldiers recently".

It was perhaps that Mr Holness' concentration was primarily on economics. "We would want also to pursue with Israel economic co-operation," he said at a joint appearance with Mr Netanyahu. In that context, it makes sense that two of Mr Holness' key economic advisers, Nigel Clarke and Aubyn Hill, were part of his delegation.

We welcome any attempt by Jamaica to advance its economic interests across the globe. But the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a delicate matter on which Jamaica has maintained a principled and finely balanced position. We have to be careful against, inadvertently or otherwise, disrupting that.