[21. April 2006] On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comes to Oslo and talks with Jens Stoltenberg. By then, hopefully, the Norwegian government has finally decided how to deal with the democratically elected government of the Palestinians.
Foreign Ministry statements in recent weeks have caused more confusion than clarification, and testify to a cowardly and unclear attitude to what is actually a demonstrative political decision: cutting Norwegian support for the Palestinian Authority. The government speaks with a heavy tongue when Jonas Gahr Støre and Erik Solheim try to reassure their respective voters and the ministry they share at the same time.
The result is that no one really knows whether the government intends to continue the financial support of the Palestinian government when the next payment is due in May.
When the government signals that it will join the US and the EU in its halt to transfers, it will help the Palestinian government become financially dependent on states such as Iran and Russia. When the West stops the transfers, the Islamists in Iran are supportive. Russia responded with promises of financial support and equally clear demands, linked to Hamas recognizing Israel. This is a policy that requires dialogue and concrete action.
However, the Norwegian government's policy does not invite dialogue or cooperation. This is underlined by the fact that the government will not meet Hamas at the political level when members of the ruling party visit Norway in May.
As Development Minister Erik Solheim says in this week's Ny Tid: "A two-state solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis is only possible if the Palestinian state-building project continues." He should be reminded that a state-building Palestine requires international recognition and political contact with other states. States like Norway.
The Minister of Development also states that Norway does not operate with any list of terrorist organizations, but condemns acts such as terror. Nevertheless, they choose to signal cuts in support because the Hamas party has come into government. Hamas has let the weapons rest since the fall of 2004. The Palestinian government has yet to commit any government overreach.
There are many reasons to put strong and international pressure on Hamas. This pressure can also be financial. But there is no reason to punish Hamas for abuses that have not yet been committed. The new Palestinian government should be given more time to show what it wants to do, and be punished only when any human rights violations have actually been committed.
Palestinians have long been proud to be "the only secular people in the Middle East." Now they are being pushed ever closer to Islamism. Is this what Jens Stoltenberg wants to contribute to?