Misguided EU

Despite a renewed willingness on the parts of both Israel and the Palestinians to sit down and talk, coupled with enthusiastic support from the Arab League, EU pressure on Israel will not help peace talks.

EU building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
EU building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
What could the European Union have been thinking when it decided to issue guidelines that, if implemented, would halt all its grants, prizes and “financial instruments” for research and development centers, hi-tech companies, academic institutions and other firms and institutions located beyond the 1949 Armistice line? Though it tried to present the move as nothing more than “putting the rules of the game in writing,” as one EU official put it, the EU must have known the ramifications of putting into practice positions out of touch with the realities on the ground.
As The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon noted, the document including the new guidelines “does not provide an opening for penalizing Israeli institutions inside the pre-1967 lines with business activities beyond the Green Line; it makes available a gaping hole.”
Not only will they now deny funding to, and cooperation with, Israeli institutions based or operating over the 1949 Armistice line, the Europeans will demand that all future agreements between Israel and the EU include a clause that stipulates Israel accepts the EU’s position that sees all territory beyond the Green Line as not belonging to Israel.
Sites in Jerusalem’s Old City such as the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place, would have to be recognized as territories not belonging to Israel.
The absurdity of the European position, and its complete failure to make distinctions based on demographics, religious significance – even Palestinian statements acknowledging that many Jewish neighborhoods built after 1967 in Jerusalem are here to stay – is made all the more untenable by the inclusion of the Golan Heights as territory illegally “occupied” by Israel.
Clearly, the Europeans are aware of the turmoil rocking Syria and the fact that there is no responsible government to which the Golan Heights could be returned. In light of the anarchy in Syria, why do the Europeans believe that Israel should be punished with a boycott for holding on to, and maintaining order in, territories that fell into Israeli hands when it defended itself against an offensive by the combined armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria? The situation is not very different on the West Bank. To whom, conceivably, is Israel expected to “return” the West Bank? The Palestinian leadership is split between Hamas, which aspires to destroy Israel, even within pre-1967 lines, and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, which lacks democratic legitimacy (presidential elections were due to take place in 2009), refuses to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions, and continues to see cities inside the Green Line such as Jaffa and Acre as integral parts of a future Palestinian state.
The Palestinians bear heavy responsibility for the stalemate in negotiations toward a two-state solution. And judging from the PA’s treatment of Palestinian journalists, its violent stifling of dissent and its corruption, it is doubtful a Palestinian state would protect basic human rights. At the very least, the EU should refrain from unilateral moves directed at either of the sides in the conflict, out of recognition of the complexity of the issues.
Despite a renewed willingness on the parts of both Israel and the Palestinians to sit down and talk, coupled with enthusiastic support from the Arab League, EU pressure on Israel will not help peace talks.
We appreciate that politicians in many European states are under pressure from a rapidly growing and increasingly assertive and radicalized Muslim population and other anti-Zionist groups to take a stronger stand against Israel. But if Palestinian intransigence is rewarded with more European pressure on Israel, this will encourage yet more intransigence.
Why enter into negotiations and make painful concessions as long as international pressure remains focused solely on Israel? President Shimon Peres, an old hand at peace negotiations, is acutely aware of the potentially counterproductive nature of the EU sanctions.
“Don’t put in place irresponsible sanctions which will damage the peace process,” he warned the EU. “The issues are complex and sensitive: Delay your decision.
Make peace the priority and give it a chance, your decision could lead to another crisis in our region.”
Words of wisdom.