The EU is offering Israel and the Palestinians an unprecedented “partnership” if they reach a peace accord. It is meant partly to assuage Israeli fears that a future Palestinian state would turn into a “failed state” and launching pad for attacks, the EU’s envoy to Israel said Monday.
Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said that one of the purposes of the proposal put on the table in December by the EU foreign ministers was to allay Israel’s concerns that a future Palestinian state would inevitably become unstable and turn into a “launching pad for attacks on Israel, as was the case in Gaza.”
He was speaking at a symposium in Jerusalem on EU-Israel ties sponsored by the Konrad- Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
“What we can offer is to ensure through economic, training and other kinds of assistance a greater stability in a future Palestinian state, and to strengthen the links between Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt to give them a stake in the stability of a future Palestinian state,” he said.
Following their meeting in December, the EU foreign ministers issued a statement saying that “in the event of a final peace agreement the European Union will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine a Special Privileged Partnership including increased access to the European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments as well as promotion of business to business relations.”
Even though all the details of what is included in this new partnership have not been worked out, Faaborg-Andersen said “it is a strong signal from the biggest trading bloc in the world of a willingness to strengthen and improve an already very close relationship.”
The EU envoy said the EU would be willing and ready to assist in the implementation of a peace agreement, be it in compensation to refugees, or on the security front.
He reiterated the EU’s opposition to settlements, saying that not only are they contrary to international law, but also make a two-state solution more difficult by carving up and making a “patchwork” of a future Palestinian state.
He acknowledged that the EU has recently introduced deeds to back up its words on settlements, including the settlement guidelines that were introduced last year to ensure that EU taxpayer money not be spent in the settlements.
The issue was a huge bone of contention when Israel negotiated last year with the EU entrance into its science and innovation Horizon 2020 program.
However, Faaborg-Andersen acknowledged that this was a fairly small problem, because there were not many applicants into the program from the settlements. He said the guidelines had no significant impact on Horizon 2020, but “was an important principle to establish.”
While the guidelines, as well as efforts to clearly label products emanating from the settlements, were targeting settlements “which are seen by us as a particular obstacle in the peace process,” he said, “there is no talk of applying BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] measures, or isolation, against Israel within the Green Line.
This is not the approach or policy of the EU, and will never be.”
The envoy denied that there was any crisis in EU-Israel relations.
He asked how it was possible to talk of a crisis when annual trade has reached $30 billion a year, there is a visa free regime in place between Israel and the EU, as well as an “open skies agreement” that will drive down airfare and increase human contact.
Having said that, he acknowledged that Israeli-EU ties have ebbed and flowed depending on the progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Michael Mertes, head of the Israel Office of the Konrad-Adenauer- Stiftung Foundation, said at the symposium that boycotts “have not won the hearts and minds of Europe.”
He urged Israelis to “take note of the fact that the boycott movement has been a failure,” and not to “fall prey to the distorted logic that only bad news is good news.”