When today the German-Palestinian Steering Committee convenes for the first time at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, this will be the beginning of something entirely new. No other country has such a joint forum with the Palestinian Authority, a forum in which Cabinet ministers from both sides will discuss how state-building in the Palestinian territories can best be taken forward.
The leitmotiv of this new Committee is “Future for Palestine”, an image that sums up the essence of Germany’s policy in the Middle East. By reason of our history my country bears a special moral responsibility for the security and existence of the State of Israel. Our close partnership with Israel is an immutable cornerstone of German foreign policy. We are also committed, however, to the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state. For it is our firm belief that lasting peace in the Middle East is possible only if there is a just two-state solution – Israel and a viable Palestinian state existing side by side in secure and recognized borders.
To achieve such a two-state solution will require courage and vision on the part of all concerned as well as – a crucial prerequisite – the existence of effective government institutions in the Palestinian territories. A state cannot simply be created on paper, it must have a visible presence on the ground, organs and institutions that cater to the legitimate needs of its citizens in areas such as security, social services, education and economic development. The process of state-building must therefore have both a political and a practical dimension. It is this practical dimension that the Palestinian Authority’s Two-Year Plan focuses on. Under this Plan, the Palestinians will for the first time step by step establish their own rule of law system with properly functioning institutions. This is truly shaping the future. And it has our wholehearted backing. That is why, during my first visit as Foreign Minister to Israel and the Palestinian territories in November, I assured Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of our desire to maintain and step up our support for the process of Palestinian state-building.
German assistance for the Palestinian territories is now a decades-old tradition. As one of the largest donors here, Germany is helping in particular to build infrastructure, put the economy onto a sustainable footing, improve education and develop the security services. All this is an essential requirement for a viable Palestinian state. What we want to do now is join forces with our Palestinian partners and work with them even more closely under a shared roof. That, we believe, is how we can best give the impressive efforts Prime Minister Fayyad is making the support they deserve.
As Deputy Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany I am greatly looking forward – along with my Cabinet colleagues – to welcoming Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and several of his ministers to the first meeting of our new joint Committee in Berlin. Our common goal is a peaceful and bright future for Palestine. We will continue to actively support our Palestinian partners in shaping such a future.