The European Union has just upgraded my holiday plans. While I was busy
considering attractions on the Golan Heights, I discovered that this now counts,
in the eyes of Europeans, as a trip abroad. And all the time I had thought that
traveling up North, on an Egged bus rather than an airplane, was considered a
The upgrade, of course, comes at a price – potentially
millions of dollars. I don’t have to personally hand over the money, but it will
ultimately come from the Israeli taxpayers’ already shrinking
The new EU guidelines preventing financial grants to Israeli
entities beyond the pre- 1967 lines – what is known as the Green Line around
here – were not a complete shock; the Europeans haven’t hidden their intentions
even though they claim to be an unbiased arbitrator in the Middle East
The timing was a surprise. But, on the bright side, at least
Israelis won’t forget the date. The decision was announced on the 9th of Av
according to the Hebrew calendar.
As events go, the EU’s latest
directives are more a scratch than a wound: The destruction of both the First
and Second Temples, the ruin of the city of Betar by the Romans in 132 CE
(resulting in the deaths of some 800,000 Jews), the start of the First Crusade
in 1096 (destroying many Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland), the
expulsions of Jews from England (1290), France (1306) and Spain (1492), and the
approval granted by Hitler to Heinrich Himmler to commence the Final Solution –
all these took place on the same dismal Hebrew date, Tisha Be’av. It could be
considered part of the European tradition, just as it’s part of our tradition to
grow stronger on the memories.
Given this history, the EU possibly
thought we’d say thank-you for letting us off so lightly – aiming to make only
certain parts of the country and our capital Judenrein, and without any direct
If the decision was intended to get Israel and the
Palestinians back to the negotiating table (something US Secretary of State John
Kerry has been working on very industriously in recent weeks) the sound of it
backfiring will not coincidentally sound like gunshots.
For Israelis, is
raises the level of mistrust: If the removal of the Jewish economic presence
over the pre-1967 line is a prerequisite for a return to talks, the end result
is clear. Similarly, if the Palestinians can achieve all this by continuing to
refuse to negotiate – despite frequent Israeli suggestions and gestures – why
should they bother sitting down and risking anything? Actually, by these
standards, if I want to go abroad I need not go far – just a 20- minute car ride
takes me to all sort of Jerusalem neighborhoods which the EU in its infinite
wisdom evidently thinks should be handed over to Palestinian control, for the
first time in Jerusalem’s 3,000- year history. This includes the Western Wall
itself, where thousands gathered on Tisha Be’av – fasting and mourning – to
commemorate the destruction of the Temples and the Exile of Jews from Jerusalem
and Judea some 2,000 years ago.
I’m not quite sure to whom we are meant
to hand over the Golan Heights – even delegations of the UN forces have been
scared out of the Syrian side of the border by the civil war. More than 100,000
Syrians have died since the start of the uprising there and more than a million
have been made homeless; the obvious European solution is to distract attention
by focusing on the Israeli- Palestinian dispute.
Israel did pull out of
Gaza, unilaterally – removing all Jewish presence there including the dead, who
were disinterred. Now, instead of a thriving agriculture-based economy which
also provided employment to local Palestinians, Gazans import missiles and lob
them at Israeli communities in areas so undisputed that even Europe isn’t
calling for us to give them up.
The EU directive will inevitably also
result in job losses for people in industrial zones like Mishor Adumim (near
Ma’aleh Adumim) and Barkan (near Ariel). For the sake of clarity: When I say
“people” I include Palestinians as well as “settlers” even though the latter are
often referred to as if they had some special subhuman
Incidentally, I fear that the tone set by the guidelines is far
more likely to promote terror attacks on settlers – those delegitimized Israelis
– than to encourage the Palestinian leadership to talk to the government in
Europe was eager to note that this is not a boycott of Israel.
But economic sanctions – like terrorism – tend to cross lines very
Tellingly, those NGOs that claim to further peace were not
included in the European ban. This was not because of their huge success in
bringing about coexistence, but rather because of the tendency of many to
further the EU line (with massive European funding) even though it often hinders
normalization of relations.
The use of the pre-1967 or pre-1949 Armistice
lines is not coincidental. The world tends to conveniently forget that there
were Jewish communities over these “borders” before the War of Independence when
places like the Etzion bloc and Jerusalem’s Old City fell to the Arab armies
that tried to destroy the nascent Jewish state rather than take the opportunity
to establish a Palestinian one.
I’m wondering if UNRWA (the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) will be
willing to channel some of its funding away from Gaza, for example, to help pay
for the relocation of the more than 722,000 Jews who currently live in
communities over the Green Line plus the 300,000 who live in post-’67 Jerusalem
Will it, for instance, set up free schools to replace
those in places like Ramot, Efrat, Gilo, Ariel and the Golan Heights? Can we
expect the UN or the EU to establish a hospital like Hadassah-University Medical
Center on Mount Scopus, keeping in mind that Israeli hospitals employ and treat
both Jews and Arabs? For future close-to-home holiday plans, I made a mental
note this week that an entrepreneur won approval from the Jerusalem Municipality
to operate hot-air balloon rides offering 360-degree views of the capital 150
meters in the air. I don’t want to take the wind out of their sails – or the
helium out of their balloon – but I guess they’ll need to be extra careful that
they don’t cross any European-imposed borders.
Those who sit in Brussels
don’t seem to realize how neighborhoods run into each other: I have neighbors
who do their grocery shopping in nearby Arab Beit Safafa just as the residents
of that neighborhood shop in the Malha mall.
What can be done? The
government is of course feverishly trying to avert the implementation of the
guidelines, but it is unlikely they will be completely buried as long as there
is no clear progress in negotiations.
This is the time for Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu to clearly determine his red lines. The Iranian threat has
not disappeared but there are processes in motion closer to home. This is the
metaphorical battle that nobody is going to fight for us.
individual level, I suggest combating boycotts with buy-cotts – seeking out
Israeli-made goods. I pray that – despite the odds – peace will one day be
reached. A real, sustainable peace – not the type we’ve already experienced,
accompanied by an onslaught of missiles and terror attacks. On that day, I’ll
raise a glass from a boutique Golan winery. In spite of the European Union, or
maybe to spite it.
The writer is the editor of The International