The EU’s misguided singling out of Israel

Syria is devastated by civil war. Egypt is immersed in violent turmoil. Iran continues to enrich uranium and spin centrifuges at an alarming pace, despite the smiles and smooth talk of its new president.

October 13, 2013 22:18
3 minute read.
A sign in Sweden calls for Israel boycotts.

boycott israel sign swdish 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Syria is devastated by civil war. Egypt is immersed in violent turmoil. Iran continues to enrich uranium and spin centrifuges at an alarming pace, despite the smiles and smooth talk of its new president. Together with its proxy Hezbollah, Iran continues to destabilize a region awash in upheaval, with its tentacles visible in every conflict in the area, from Lebanon to Iraq and Bahrain to Yemen. And the menacing threat of al-Qaida remains ever-present.

Enter the European Union.

With the region aflame with so many crises demanding attention, the EU announced that it was imposing a ban on Israeli institutions in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The move and its timing, coming just as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed negotiations after a three-year hiatus, could not have been more inauspicious.

Highly questionable for moral, historical and legal reasons, the ban would be counterproductive at best and harmful at worst. It will only serve as a disincentive for the Palestinian Authority to engage in serious final-status negotiations. If the Palestinians can get what they want from international bodies, why bother negotiate with the Israelis? Indeed, the controversial and one-sided decision to single out the settlements smacks of imbalance and will likely only serve to harden positions.

Did the EU ever condition aid to the Palestinians on an end to the rabid anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian media? Just in the past couple weeks we have seen the lethal consequences of such incitement: a 61-year-old Israeli man was bludgeoned to death outside his Jordan Valley home by Palestinians wielding axes and iron bars, a 9-yearold Israeli girl was shot outside her home in a West Bank settlement just outside of Jerusalem, an Israeli soldier was killed by a former Palestinian coworker who had lured him to the West Bank, while another Israeli soldier was shot dead in the city of Hebron during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Has the EU singled out any other country for such one-sided treatment? How do they explain their direct financial assistance to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus? How many people in Europe – and around the world – know that the much touted “Green Line” is not a legal border but simply the armistice line drawn after Israel’s War of Independence when it was attacked by five invading Arab armies? Israel has legal, moral and security claims to this land.

It is my firm belief that a viable peace – and any future border changes – can only be worked out in direct bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The heads of the Israel Allies Caucus in the US Congress, which I co-chair, have written to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging her to halt these harmful guidelines. Similarly, a group of two dozen parliamentarians from around the world, including members of the European Parliament, recently signed a similar petition. Ashton may have acted unilaterally as the members of the European Parliament were unaware of the pending action before she announced it.

I am also encouraged that Secretary of State John Kerry has urged EU leaders to suspend this ban, especially in light of the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Instead of being one-sided in their criticism, the EU should redouble its efforts to promote economic development in the West Bank as opposed to taking punitive steps against one side. Perversely, a ban such as this would hurt struggling Palestinians more than it would hurt Israel.

Economic progress on both sides will do more to bring about the kind of solution the EU so wants. A true peace will only be decided in bilateral peace talks that both sides buy into.

We hope that our friends in Europe will take heed.

It is in the true interest of peace that they do so.

The author, a member of Congress from Colorado, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and cochairs the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus.

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