Double standards

Europe’s stance has been detrimental to the prospects for a political settlement.

United Nations General Assembly 370 (R) (photo credit: Chip East / Reuters)
United Nations General Assembly 370 (R)
(photo credit: Chip East / Reuters)
The response by Europe to Israel’s recent decision to authorize plans for future building in E1, the barren stretch of land between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim to the east of the capital, wasn’t at all surprising – but it was hypocritical. In what arguably was an unwarranted overreaction, condemnation was swift and harsh with several European governments summoning Israeli ambassadors to warn them of unspecified consequences should construction begin.
The reason for the fierce outcry? As Alistair Burt, British Undersecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, put it: The E1 plan “threatens the viability of a two-state solution.”
Burt would be right to be upset about any developments that undermine the possibility of peace. The Israeli decision regarding E1, however, isn’t one of them. That’s because the Palestinians could still have a contiguous state in 95 percent of the West Bank even if Israel were to annex E-1 (a plan, incidentally, first introduced by then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994).
Indeed, if Burt and his European colleagues are genuinely concerned about measures threatening the viability of a two-state solution, they would do better to look in the mirror. The Europeans have long sought a more active role in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but lately their conduct has been detrimental to the prospects for a political settlement.
Notably, not a single European country – save the Czech Republic – opposed the problematic Palestinian UN bid for non-member observer status. The Europeans offered two arguments in defense of their position: The upgraded status would hasten a two-state solution; it would also strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, the “moderate” Palestinian Authority President, visà- vis Hamas.
Unfortunately, both arguments are flawed. The Europeans surely know that a political settlement will be realized only through direct negotiations between the parties. But why would Abbas sit down with Israel to negotiate away territory that the UN resolution has already allotted to the future Palestinian state? Moreover, Abbas is hardly the moderate Europe depicts him to be. After all, this is the same Abbas who congratulated Hamas after it had rained 1,500 missiles down on Israeli civilians during the latest round of hostilities. The following week, he stood before the UN General Assembly to proclaim that Israel’s existence has inflicted “an unprecedented historical injustice” on the Palestinian people.
Given such incendiary rhetoric, why were no Palestinian diplomats summoned in European capitals and issued a rebuke? If Europe truly wants to help foster peace, it should begin by cracking down on the extensive trade that still exists between European companies and Iran, the longtime financial patron and arms supplier of the terrorists in Gaza. The worst culprits are the Germans: In 2011, bilateral trade between Germany and Iran totaled nearly four billion euros.
European executives make the spurious claim that their business dealings don’t “technically” violate EU or UN sanctions.
Try explaining that to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who spent hours on end in bomb shelters in November. In fact, many of the key sectors of the Iranian economy, with which European firms are engaged, are dominated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which has supplied Hamas with the technology to produce Fajr-5 missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
By failing to tighten the screws on its trade with Iran, Europe also benefits Iran’s other client – Hezbollah, which, like Hamas, seeks to destroy Israel. One would think that the EU’s declared interest in bringing about a two-state solution would cause it to cut ties with a group for whom an Israeli-Palestinian political settlement is anathema.
Yet, inexplicably, Hezbollah continues to enjoy wide political and organizational latitude across Europe. And, despite its extensive record of terrorist activity, including the July bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists, the EU stubbornly refuses to designate it as a terrorist organization, citing “a lack of tangible evidence” of involvement in terrorism.
How could any of these policies and actions possibly advance a two-state solution? Perhaps it’s time for Israel to summon the European ambassadors and pose that very question.
The writer is Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon.