The 15-year anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza has been accompanied by a wave of painful personal and political memoirs, amid a difficult debate on the wisdom of Ariel Sharon’s sudden policy shift. The latest round of “balloon terrorism” from Gaza that is torching the fields and trees of southern Israel, and the periodic rocket attacks, sending thousands of Israelis into shelters in the middle of the night, are reminders that the hoped-for quiet was an illusion. Instead of using the withdrawal as an opportunity for economic development to lift the people of Gaza out of poverty, the Palestinian leaders have diverted international aid into cross-border attack tunnels and rocket brigades. Largely forgotten in this historical reckoning is the European Union’s role in this process, and the failure of the EU to provide the guarantees they had pledged to fulfill in 2005. After Israel’s withdrawal, the EUBAM (European Union Border Assistance Mission) was deployed at the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt. The mission consisted of some 60 police and customs officials “to help bring peace to the area,” ostensibly by monitoring traffic in order to deter smuggling of weapons into Gaza.According to the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, EUBAM would monitor the performance of the PA in operating the crossing and had the authority to order the re-examination of persons and goods that passed through the crossing if PA examinations proved unsatisfactory.From the beginning, this EU monitoring presence was a failure, and far from demonstrating Europe’s potential contribution to peace, it demonstrated the chasm between high-minded talk and the reality of conflict and terrorism on the ground. Weapons smuggling continued, and on December 30, 2005, a few weeks after their initial deployment, EUBAM monitors fled Rafah to the safety of an Israeli military base when Palestinian police officers stormed the crossing, in what was described for media and diplomatic consumption as a “protest demonstration”. Three months later, the monitors fled once again following a wave of foreigner kidnappings in Gaza.The EUBAM team returned, but with no actual monitoring, and as the attacks from Gaza following the Israeli pull-out escalated, the EU officials were bystanders. In June 2006, a tunnel attack from Gaza into Israel, not far from EUBAM’s location, resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit. WHEN ISRAEL responded, the EU automatically condemned the “disproportionate use of force and “the humanitarian crisis it has aggravated”.This was followed a year later by the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas forces, in which a number of Palestinians loyal to the Fatah organization were killed. At this point, in June 2007, EUBAM monitors permanently vacated the crossing. In theory, their departure was also supposed to result in the closing of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, according to the terms of the withdrawal agreement and as repeated by the EU spokesperson. But when Hamas took over, nothing changed and even the limited deterrence that might have existed immediately disappeared.In European political folklore, EUBAM’s failure, like everything else connected to the Palestinians, is blamed on Israel. Benedetta Voltolini, an academic who is considered to be an expert on EU policy, wrote that the mission “suffered from the limitations imposed by Israel, which was preventing the EU to [sic] carry out its job,” erasing the evidence, and citing two political NGOs with no security credentials, and funded by Europe (Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights Israel).In reality, while the EU wanted credit for having an active role, they did not want the accompanying responsibility. The monitors moved to a hotel in Ashkelon and then an office in Ramat Gan, where, in theory, they remain on standby, 13 years later, “maintaining readiness to redeploy to the Rafah Crossing Point once the political and security situation allows within short notice.” The website and logo remain, while EUBAM holds workshops on topics such as “Addressing Needs of Disabled Passengers” – a worthy cause, but far from the minimal contribution to deterrence of terrorism and security that the EU was entrusted with in 2005. Meanwhile, European taxpayers are providing two million euros per year, just in case EUBAM’s services become useful.This history is part of the EU’s legacy and should be recalled whenever officials such as Josep Borrell, vice president in charge of foreign policy (he replaced Frederica Mogherini) lecture Israelis on how to make peace and help the people of Gaza. Having failed and having run away from the minimal task that they undertook, a certain amount of European humility and self-reflection would seem to be appropriate.The writer is emeritus professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and president of the Institute for NGO Research, Jerusalem.