EU tantrums hurt Palestinians more than Israel

Here in Brussels, we have really started to notice that the EU is ramping up its own rhetoric, resorting to sensationalist language and short-sighted, "huffy" policies in a bid to be noticed.

November 1, 2014 22:05
3 minute read.
Protest against Gaza operation in Spain

DEMONSTRATORS MARCH with Palestinian flags during a protest against the Israeli offensive against Gaza, in Valencia, Spain. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The EU desperately wants to be seen as a world player despite its relative infancy. And when it doesn’t get its way or feels it is being ignored this lack of political maturity begins to show.

The decision by some EU member states to recognize a Palestinian state, despite there being essentially two Palestines, and despite the fact that the neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have anything vaguely resembling a state apparatus, is the political equivalent of a two-year-old’ tantrum: irrational, impertinent and frankly rather embarrassing for all concerned.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the differences couldn’t be starker. A real understanding of the tensions and political landscape has been built up over years of measured diplomacy. Sure, the relationship can get rocky sometimes, even fraught, but a level of mutual understanding exists which means temper tantrums, throwing the toys out of the pram, teenage sulking and the like just don’t exist.

Here in Brussels, we have really started to notice that the EU is ramping up its own rhetoric, resorting to sensationalist language and short-sighted, “huffy” policies in a bid to be noticed.

Mission accomplished. But for all the wrong reasons.

Somewhere in the labyrinthine corridors of the European Commission, a jaded civil servant working for the Foreign Affairs department has been studying the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) playbook. And on January the 1, 2015, we can all see the effects of this folly.

IN SHORT, the EU has informed Israel that it cannot accept the Israeli Agriculture Ministry’s authority to certify products in Israeli settlements and therefore cannot import poultry, eggs and dairy products like yogurts and cheese from settlements.

The decision, as tedious as it may sound, is the ongoing outworking of the EU’s new commitment not to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian territory. This is the same motive that governed the EU guidelines issued last June on Israel’s participation in EU programs.

What it all means is that Israeli manufacturers are bracing themselves for increased limitations on imports to the European Union of products produced in the settlements. The EU may eventually ban outright foods grown or raised in Israeli settlements.

But Jordan Valley settlers say a boycott also hurts about 6,000 Palestinians employed on their farms alone. And it’s not just them.

Today, it is estimated that up to 70 percent of Palestinians in the disputed territories financially depend in some way or other on agriculture, either by working in settlements or farming their own land.

It should be noted that poultry and their related products from settlements account for under 5% of all such products in Israel. That’s not to diminish the impact it will have on settlers, but the new European rules will not have much practical impact from an economic standpoint on Israeli agriculture as a whole.

Who it will undoubtedly hurt are the many thousands of Palestinian workers on settlement farms, as well as the thousands of freehold farmers in the territories who needed the ministry certification to export their goods.

So, just as the BDS managed to ensure that 900 Palestinians lost their job at Sodastream, the EU, in a fit of pique, is making the same mistake on a much, much bigger scale.

Sometimes during a tantrum, the child ends up hurting themselves. The EU is hurting its own credibility, and its standing internationally, by such pointless partisan actions.

It needs to grow up. And fast.

The writer has been the executive director of the European Friends of Israel since 2012. Prior to this he held various positions in the European Parliament, the Knesset and the private sector.

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