Former EU leaders slammed for 'anti-Israel' letter

Letter to Ashton on peace process fails to note Palestinian "anti-Semitism and terror," claims Mideast expert Abrams.

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April 24, 2013 05:29
3 minute read.
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg

EU building 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

Top United States experts on Israel’s security sharply criticized an open letter by former European Union politicians and diplomats to the EU’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, for its slanted attacks on the Jewish state’s role in the peace process with the Palestinians.

A group of 19 composed of former EU presidents, prime ministers, ministers and senior officials wrote in a letter last week that “the Peace Process as conceived in the Oslo Agreements has nothing more to offer” and that Israel is responsible for “the bitterness generated by the harsh conditions of life under the Occupation.”

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In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Josh Block, CEO of The Israel Project, an American pro-Israel organization based in Washington, countered, “Rather than pursuing their hypocritical, myopic and relentlessly disproportionate interest in blaming Israel instead of [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ corrupt Palestinian Authority and the terrorist group Hamas, who are responsible for failing and isolating their own people and rejecting peace offer after peace offer, these folks should focus on their own problems in Europe, where Hezbollah is carrying out terrorist attacks with impunity while raising money all across Europe, under these people’s watchful eyes, to help Assad slaughter his own people day after day.”

The list of signatories to the Ashton letter include former Italian prime minister Guiliano Amato, former Irish prime minister John Bruton, former European Commissioner former Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero- Waldner, former Portuguese foreign minister Teresa Patricio Gouveia, former Swedish foreign minister and deputy prime minister Lena Hjelm- Wallén, former French prime minister Lionel Jospin, and Ruprecht Polenz, former chairman of the Bundestag foreign affairs committee.

The EU group accused the Obama administration of failing to broker peace and urged EU leaders to “play a political and not just a funding role,” in the Middle East peace process.

Blogging last week at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the council, wrote that “The letter is important in one way: it shows that European official and elite thinking continue to blame Israel for everything related to the so-called peace process.

Nowhere does the letter mention the issue of anti-Semitic broadcasting and hate speech in Palestinian official media, nor the matter of the glorification of terrorism and terrorists by the PA, and the impact such conduct has on prospects for peace.”

Abrams also argued that the letter’s signatories omitted mention of the recalcitrant posture of the Palestinians.

He cited Abbas and his refusal of “an extremely generous offer from [former] Israeli prime minister Olmert. The Formerly Eminent Persons appear to have forgotten this, or far more likely to be seeking to avoid that truth. Equally inaccurate is their line about the ‘failure of the parties,’ a phrase which refuses to acknowledge that only the Palestinians have refused to negotiate in the last four years, not ‘the parties.”’

Abrams wrote that, “There is more in the letter that is wrong, such as the notion that human rights conditions in the West Bank are deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation. One can make a good argument that they are deteriorating, in Gaza due to Hamas and in the West Bank due to the growing pressure from the PA against journalists. The letter does not appear to consider the possibility that any problem in Palestinian areas might possibly be the fault of Palestinians.”

Polenz, the German MP signatory to the letter, prompted criticism from a Munich-based journalist who had reported both on Polenz’s support for an anti-Israel activist last year and on the fact that his Facebook website allegedly traffics in anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel.

Jennifer Nathalie Pyka wrote the Post by email on Tuesday, saying Polenz’s advocacy for the letter “is not really a surprise” because “he criticizes the Jewish state obsessively and as a basic principle” while “he remains nearly indifferent to the terrorism or the conduct of the Palestinian leadership, which are worthy of hardly ever any criticism from him.”

Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has so far not reacted publicly to the letter.


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