Former European leaders urge EU to drop settlement guidelines

Group of former European political, military and intellectual leaders say settlement guidelines undermine peace process.

September 26, 2013 23:31
2 minute read.
Mosque in Abdullah Ibrahim behind houses in West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, December 2011.

Efrat settlement 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )


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GAZIANTEP, Turkey – A group of prominent former European political, military and intellectual leaders called on the EU’s foreign ministers this week to reconsider applying new guidelines that would bar any cooperation with Israeli entities that operate beyond the Green Line.

“There is no need to remind you that in order to represent the shared values of its member states, the EU must always endeavor to be at the forefront of international efforts to advance a more equitable, just and peaceful world order,” the members of the group, which included former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar and David Trimble, a former first minister of Northern Ireland and the 1998 Nobel Peace prize laureate, wrote in letter.

“Unfortunately, the latest effort of the European Commission to issue strict restrictive guidelines on cooperation with Israel actually brings it further from those goals,” they continued.

“We urge you to lend critical support to both Secretary Kerry’s remarkable efforts and to the political courage of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiators who have now resumed peace talks after years of impasse,” they continued.

The letter is in response to an mid-September missive from the so-called “European Eminent Persons Group” urging the EU to move forward with the imposition of the settlement guidelines.

The new letter’s signatories suggested that the Eminent Persons applied a double standard, because “the question then arises if these new restrictions in the case of Israel represent a broader policy that is being applied universally by the EU with respect to the dozens of territorial disputes, some of which are on Europe’s doorstep (fishery agreement with Morocco over the waters of Western Sahara, funds to the Turkish community in Northern Cyprus, for instance), or, put it simply, is just a discriminatory policy directed exclusively against Israel.”

According to the letter, “by explicitly restricting EU cooperation with Israel to territory within the 1967 lines, the European Commission is not somehow saving the peace process.

“In many respects it is prejudging the question of Israel’s future borders, and in doing so it is in fact undermining the delicate negotiations that are currently transpiring. By treating Israel differently than most other states, this policy only reinforces the impression among Israelis that Europe is basically unfriendly to Israel and cannot be relied upon as it once was.”

The letter urges significant changes in the EU posture toward the Jewish state, calling upon the 28 EU countries “to support the launch of an engagement, outreach and dialogue effort with Israel based on joint values, mutual respect, common interests and shared benefits. Time has come for Europe to recognize the extraordinary circumstances and challenges facing the sole liberal and thriving democracy in its southern neighborhood. This is not to say that friends should avoid criticizing each other, but Europe has an obligation to manage its conversation with Israel in a far more honorable and open-minded manner.”

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