No 1813 Posted by fw, November 5, 2016
“The Oslo peace framework is obsolete, Netanyahu is disingenuous about a two-state solution, European funding for the Palestinian Authority only perpetuates the occupation, and the United States has never been an objective peace broker — that is what a group of 19 former prime ministers, foreign ministers and senior EU figures wrote in a letter to the European Union’s top leadership this week…. It is highly unlikely that the EU will ever impose the level of pressure necessary to change Benjamin Netanyahu’s calculus with regards to ending the occupation. Europe’s “special relationship” with Israel is, simply speaking, too special…. So, the EU is left with the same options it has been threatening and preparing for years: voting in favor of Palestinian-sponsored Security Council resolutions; labeling Israeli settlement products; hypothetically linking economic ties with progress toward a two-state solution; and taking the reins of the peace process.” —Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, +972
Omer-Man’s informed opinion piece is based on a May 2015 letter prepared by former European officials and sent to the Vice-President of the European Commission and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union. Following a broad-brush analysis of the Israeli-Palestine situation, action at the UN, and the EU relationship with the US, the former EU officials call for “a new formulation of EU policy”, labelled “A Fresh Approach.” The new EU policy is to include ten “elements”, which, I find, are peppered with obtuse “intentions”, as opposed to goal-driven, accountability-based “actions”. To illustrate, consider these ten fragments selected from each of the ten elements:
The word “accountability” appears but once among the ten “elements”. The only other reference to accountability in the 5-page letter appears in this sentence of past failed attempts to hold Israel accountable: “Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation. It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.”
Is it significant that there is no reference to the Palestinian BDS movement in either the article or the letter?
Today, almost seventeen months later, Israel is ferociously counterattacking all attempts to hold it accountable. According to a recent repost, Israel and its enablers successfully blunt even the mildest criticism of abuse of Palestinians. Moreover, fearful of upsetting Israel’s patron in Washington, governments muzzle popular anger at belligerent, unrepentant Israel.
Below is a repost of Omer-Man’s account of the EU leaders’ attempt to find ways to hold Israel accountable. The EU leaders’ letter us copied at the end of the repost. To read Omer-Man’s original piece, click on the following linked title. Omer-Man is the editor-in-chief of +972 Magazine and a regular contributor of both reporting and analysis.
Former European officials urge a new two-state approach that includes more pressure and fewer Americans. But can the EU ever bring enough pressure to change Netanyahu’s calculus?
The Oslo peace framework is obsolete, Netanyahu is disingenuous about a two-state solution, European funding for the Palestinian Authority only perpetuates the occupation, and the United States has never been an objective peace broker — that is what a group of 19 former prime ministers, foreign ministers and senior EU figures wrote in a letter to the European Union’s top leadership this week. (Read the full letter below.)
The top-ranking group of former officials, which calls itself the European Eminent Persons Group (EEPG), has sent very similar letters in the past. Signatories include former presidents and prime ministers of Ireland, France and the Netherlands, former foreign ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, and former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solano, among others.
The former statesmen and diplomats are calling on the EU to ratchet up its stalling sanctions regime against Israeli settlement activity, to back Palestinian steps in the UN Security Council and other international bodies, and to demand greater adherence to human rights standards by both sides.
“Standards of living and human rights in both [Palestinian] territories have sunk shockingly low. It is no longer possible for the EU to allow these conditions to continue without grave risk to its international reputation and to its long-term interest in the stability of its neighbourhood,” the EEPG letter declared. “The EU needs to decide on its priorities.”
The letter’s boldest proposal is for the European Union to take the lead in designing a new approach toward a two-state solution — with or without Washington. “Hiding behind American leadership on the politics of the dispute is unedifying and unproductive,” the former officials write.
The European Union already has carrots and sticks on the table, both of which it shyly brandishes from time to time. Brussels has promised Israel near-full integration into the EU marketplace as a reward for achieving a two-state solution. Alternatively, it has warned that there will be “no more business as usual” if the peace process is abandoned — hinting at but never explicitly threatening its free trade agreement with Israel.
Israel, for its part, generally ignores the pressure tactics and mini-sanctions. And what effect does the EU believe its sanctions on kosher wine and organic poultry will have on Israeli policy as long as EU member states continue to sell the IDF warships and subsidize large parts of the cost? What influence does Brussels believe its financial guidelines for projects beyond the Green Line can really have on an Israeli government that has publicly committed to itself to expanding and entrenching the settlements?
“Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation,” the EEPG letter declares. “It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.”
The group of esteemed retired statesmen and diplomats also knows full well, however, that its positions and demands will never be made by sitting prime ministers, foreign ministers or EU high representatives. After all, they themselves waited until retirement to make their true opinions public.
It is highly unlikely that the EU will ever impose the level of pressure necessary to change Benjamin Netanyahu’s calculus with regards to ending the occupation. Europe’s “special relationship” with Israel is, simply speaking, too special.
So, the EU is left with the same options it has been threatening and preparing for years: voting in favor of Palestinian-sponsored Security Council resolutions; labeling Israeli settlement products; hypothetically linking economic ties with progress toward a two-state solution; and taking the reins of the peace process.
To: Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union
Cc: Mr Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
Mr Jean- Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament
Mr John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Re: A new EU approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Dear High Representative,
Dear Foreign Minister,
The re- election of Benyamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister and the construction of a new Israeli coalition government now requires urgent action by the EU to construct a coherent and effective policy on the question of Palestine.
The European Eminent Persons Group on Middle East issues (EEPG) presents the following commentary and recommendations on what that policy should be.
As our statement of April 2014 made clear, we have for some time regarded the Oslo-Madrid process as effectively defunct. The opportunities it presented through its focus on the centre ground in the substance for a settlement were suffocated by mutual distrust, by Palestinian disunity and by Israel’s lack of interest in an outcome of this kind, as evidenced by large-scale settlement expansion.
Mr Netanyahu expressed various views on Palestine in and around the recent election campaign, most of them cold to the concept of an independent Palestinian state. We are convinced in our own minds that he has little intention of negotiating seriously for a two- state solution within the term of this incoming Israeli government. We also have low confidence that the US Government will be in a position to take a lead on fresh negotiations with the vigour and the impartiality that a two-state outcome demands.
Yet the situation on the ground grows steadily more dangerous. It has received less priority attention recen tly than certain other parts of a very disturbed region, but conditions in the Occupied Territories remain high on the list of the world’s worst crises in terms not just of political flammability, but also of the denial of international justice, human righ ts and humanitarian standards. Israel’s long-term security, which we value highly, is severely compromised by the current trend of events, as its international reputation. The continued illegal expansion of settlements in area and population will only rein force this trend.
The EEPG remains committed to the concept of a two- state solution. We see no better alternative to the probability otherwise of the establishment of either a non-Jewish democracy or a Jewish non-democracy within the territories in question, neither of which would be a stable arrangement. It is time for the European Council of Ministers to construct a policy on Israel-Palestine that both reflects the nature of the threat to European interests of a totally collapsed peace process and meets the EU’s responsibility to take a comprehensive, independent and effective position on this primary foreign and security policy issue.
Unequal status of the Parties
It has been a serious flaw in previous attempts at negotiations for a comprehensive settlement that the Israeli and Palestinian parties have been so unequal in international status. This was never addressed with any objectivity by American negotiating teams. Some difference in status has to be acknowledged as inevitable, given the circumstances of the Occupation, but it was always the responsibility of those promoting negotiations to protect the integrity of the process by ensuring the equivalence of the historical rights of both peoples under international law and UN principles.
International awareness of this has led to recognition of Palestine moving up the international agenda. This was given impetus during the course of 2014 by Arab-sponsored activity in the UN General Assembly and then by Sweden’s decision, supported by a number of other European parliaments, in favour of recognition. Further progress for the concept of recognition has been compromised as much by the Palestinians’ own failure to reconcile their internal differences as by Israeli opposition.
We maintain our view that the current financial and political assistance given by Europe and America to the Palestinian Authority achieves little more than the preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority’s tenuous grip on the West Bank population’s allegiance has required strong security and other dependence on Israel, funded primarily by Europe and the US. Gaza has shamefully been left to one side.
The situation in the Occupied Territories
Standards of liv ing and human rights in both territories have sunk shockingly low. It is no longer possible for the EU to allow these conditions to continue without grave risk to its international reputation and to its long- term interest in the stability of its neighbourhood. Hiding behind American leadership on the politics of the dispute is unedifying and unproductive. The apparently more urgent crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are little excuse either, when the scope to stand up for principled action on Israel- Palestine, along lines long established by past UN decisions, is better defined than in those other cases. We seem to forget that the context in Palestine is one of 47 years of military occupation, characterised by grave violations of international law.
The EU needs to decide on its priorities. Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation. It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.
Action at the United Nations
During the course of 2015 it is probable that the status of Palestine will again come before the UN Security Council. EU members of that body should be united in supporting a draft resolution that creates a greater equivalence between Israel and Palestine as political entities in the framework of any new negotiations. If this means recognition of a Palestine government-in-waiting for the territories within the pre-1967 borders, or the setting of a deadline for the negotiation of a two-state solution, the EU should be united in support. As for Palestine’s membership of the International Criminal Court as from 1 April 2015, Europe should engage with the Palestinians on responsible use of the ICC, recognising that its powers will be applicable to Palestinian just as much as to Israeli actions. Indeed, the existence of the ICC could be a primary channel for constraining abuses of human rights and war crimes on both sides in future.
The EU relationship with the US
The EU and its Member States have been held back from a more proactive stance on Israel- Palestine by three major considerations: their lack of consensus on the issue, their focus on newer and apparently more urgent Middle East crises and their reluctance to get out in front of the United States in an area where Washington has always insisted on prime ownership. These three drawbacks now need to be addressed directly. The absence of any credible negotiation process, combined with the desperate condition of the Occupied Territories, the eroding international legitimacy of the Israeli approach and the instability of the wider region, requires a fresh examination of EU policy. The fact that American efforts over more than two decades have achieved virtually nothing by way of justice for the Palestinians or long- term security for Israel means that European interests have also suffered. This needs to be recognised in a new formulation of EU policy that puts those interests first and that reflects the expectation of European public opinion increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo. The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed in 2002 but largely ignored since then, could form one pillar of a new EU approach.
A fresh approach
Such a policy should include the following elements:
The European Eminent Persons Group requests the High Representative and the Council of Ministers to consider these proposals urgently and seriously, with a view to laying out a new policy approach within the course of 2015.
Members of the European Eminent Persons Group
Hubert Védrine, Foreign Minister of France (1997- 2002), Co- Chair of the EEPG
Wolfgang Ischinger, Deputy Foreign Minister of Germany (1998- 2001) and current Chairman of the Munich Security Conference , Co- Chair of the EEPG
Jeremy Greenstock, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the UN (1998- 2003), Co- Chair of the EEPG
Andreas van Agt, Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1977- 1982)
Frans Andriessen , Vice- President of the European Commission (1985- 1993)
Laurens Jan Brinkhorst , Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands (2005- 2006)
Hans van den Broek, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands (1982- 1993) and EU Commissioner for External Relations (1993- 1999)
John Bruton, Prime Minister of Ireland (1994- 1997)
Roland Dumas, Foreign Minister of France (1988- 1993) and President of the Constitutional Council (1995- 2000)
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations (2004- 2009) and Foreign Minister of Austria (2000- 2004)
Elisabeth Guigou, French Minister of European Affairs (1990- 1993) and Minister of Justice of France (1997- 2000)
Lena Hjelm-Wallén, Swedish Foreign Minister (1994- 1998) and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden (1995- 2002)
Miguel Moratinos, Foreign Minister of Spain (2004- 2010) and EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process (1996- 2003)
Teresa Patrício de Gouveia, Foreign Minister of Portugal (2003- 2004)
Ruprecht Polenz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag (2005- 2013) and Secretary- General of the CDU (2000)
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990- 1997) and UN Commissioner for Human Rights (1997- 2002)
Michel Rocard, Prime Minister of France (1988- 1991)
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (1999- 2009) and NATO Secretary- General (1995- 1999)
Peter Sutherland, EU Commissioner for Competition (1985- 1989) and Director- General of the World Trade Organization (1993- 1995)