In the shadow of the Goldstone Commission's report and concerns regarding the perception of Israel overseas, the Knesset and members of the EU parliament's permanent delegation for relations with Israel laid the groundwork Wednesday for a unique partnership to improve Israeli-European relations.
Three representatives of the EU delegation - the chair and two vice-chairs - met with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and MKs Yohanan Plessner (Kadima) and Nahman Shai (Kadima) to formulate a work plan for continued relations.
The EU representatives and the Knesset members decided, according to Plessner, to tackle two main issues: promoting cooperation in fields including science, technology and finance; and addressing political and diplomatic questions that arise.
First, said Plessner, who is in charge of coordinating Knesset relations with overseas parliamentary groups, the EU delegation will work with its Knesset counterpart to examine "the challenge of dilemmas of human rights that emerge from the need to fight against terror."
"One of the derivatives of the debate is the Goldstone report," explained Plessner. "The EU representatives understand that there is a need to raise to public discourse the questions of norms of modern warfare, and the fact that current norms maintained by international courts and world bodies are incompatible with the needs of democracies to fight and defeat terrorism."
"The EU delegation members are beginning to learn about the issue, studying the security challenges and international legal perspectives to come up with practical steps that can be taken," he added, explaining that when the entire 22-delegation comes to Israel in February, their Knesset counterparts will hold a full program devoted to that issue.
"Hopefully, at that meeting, we will discuss legal and security aspects regarding how the defense environment has changed, and finally based on that, we will develop a work plan of how to raise awareness of the issue in European discourse as well as placing it on the agenda of the EU parliament."
The current EU delegation was appointed following the recent EU elections, and will serve for five years between 2009 and 2014.
Previous such delegations, said Plessner, had "more superficial relations", but he said that he had taken the initiative to improve the level of relations between the Knesset and other parliamentary groups.
Rivlin, he said, is a strong supporter of the concept of parliamentary diplomacy, and has "made himself completely available and backed me up fully" in efforts to establish such coordinated relations.
With the support of Rivlin, the Knesset has begun appointing official chairpeople to coordinate Knesset relations with parliamentary bodies. Shai, for instance, will coordinate the interaction between the EU delegation and a counterpart group within the Knesset. MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) will coordinate similar reciprocal efforts with the NATO parliamentary organization, and other MKs from Kadima, Labor and Israel Beiteinu will perform similar roles.