Volgens Catherine Ashton, de chef BuZa van de Europese Unie, zijn alle problemen in het Midden-Oosten opgelost vanaf het ogenblik dat Israël stopt met het bouwen van Joodse woningen buiten de Groene Lijn, waar inmiddels zo’n 700.000 Israëliërs wonen. Echter, volgens Hamas en Co moet Israël ook stoppen met het bouwen van Joodse woningen ‘binnen‘ de Groene lijn. Héél Israël is tenslotte van de Palestijnen en de Joden moeten allemaal weg, vinden zij. De illustere Israëlbasher Ashton vergeleek in maart 2012 de moord op drie kinderen in een Joodse school in Toulouse (Fr) met “wat er gebeurt in Gaza“. Say no more… 😦
EU “Upgrades” Relations with Israel, Strangling Strings Attached
door Soeren Kern
De Europese Unie heeft zijn handels- en diplomatieke betrekkingen met Israël op meer dan 60 activiteiten en gebieden verbetert, met inbegrip van landbouw, energie en immigratie. Maar de breed opgezette aanzwengeling tot bilaterale betrekkingen, zoals die op de jaarlijkse vergadering van de EU-Israel Association Council in Brussel op 24 juli werd aangekondigd, zal waarschijnlijk geen einde maken aan de diepgewortelde vijandigheid binnen Europese officiële kringen jegens de Joodse staat.
Het gebaar, dat komt te midden van een eindeloos spervuur van Europese kritiek ten aanzien van het Israëlisch beleid op de West Bank, Gaza en binnen Israël zelf, komt in feite naar aanleiding van de steeds toenemende economische onafhankelijkheid van Israël ten aanzien van de Europese Unie, en gebeurt met het doel een hefboomeffect teweeg te brengen tussen het EU-blok en de staat Israël. In zijn geheel, stopt het pakket maatregelen kort voor een volledige opwaardering van de relaties, die bevroren waren als gevolg van de inval in de Gazastrook in januari 2009, maar is desalniettemin betekenisvol.
Andere maatregelen zijn dat de Europese Unie de obstakels zal wegnemen die Israël de toegang verhinderen tot de door de Europese regering gecontroleerde markten en zal de samenwerking van Israël worden verbeterd met negen zeer belangrijke agentschappen van de EU, met inbegrip van de Europese Politiedienst (EUROPOL), de Judicial Cooperation Unit van de EU (Eurojust) en met het Europees Ruimte-Agentschap (ESA).
Opvallend afwezig in het pakket is de Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA), een handelsakkoord dat tot doel heeft om de technische obstakels om te handelen in industriële producten weg te nemen, met het doel om de Europee toegang tot de Israëlische markten te elimineren, en vice versa.
Alhoewel de Europese Commissie en de Europese Raad in maart 2010 het ACAA-akkoord goedkeurden, wordt de ratificatie van het akkoord in het Europese Parlement opgehouden, toe te schrijven aan het lobbyen van pro-Palestijnse activistengroepen, die argumenteren dat het akkoord Israëlische bedrijven zal bevoordelen die zaken doen in de betwiste, zogenaamde Bezette Gebieden.
Het Comité voor Buitenlandse Zaken van het Europees Parlement (AFET) gaf op 7 juni het advies om het ACAA-akkoord te bekrachtigen, maar zijn lot zal door het Comité voor Internationale Handel worden bepaald (INTA), dat zoals gepland op 18 september 2012 over die maatregel zal stemmen.
Lees verder in het Engels:
In any event, the official EU statement announcing the upgrade in bilateral relations is also replete with condescending criticism of Israel, which the EU accuses of perpetrating a wide range of human rights abuses in the “occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)” and within Israel itself. Among other items, the statement refers to Israel’s obligation to protect the rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority, stressing the “importance to address it as a core problem in its own right.” The document also condemns the “excessive recourse by Israel to administrative detention.”
The EU urges Israel “to refrain from actions which may…curtail the freedom of association and freedom of speech (of civil society)” and it calls on Israel to prosecute “settler extremists” for their “continuous violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians.”
The statement “stresses Israel’s obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population” and condemns “developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible, such as, inter alia, the marked acceleration of settlement construction, ongoing evictions of Palestinians and the demolition of their housing and infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including East Jerusalem, the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population and serious limitations for the Palestinian Authority to promote the economic development of Palestinian communities, in particular in Area C.”
The EU is also “concerned about reports on a possible resumption of construction of the separation barrier because the EU considers that the separation barrier where built on occupied land is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.” The statement comes amid a wave of official EU criticism of Israel that is often one-sided, disproportionate and bordering on obsessive.
In July, for example, the European Parliament passed a highly biased resolution accusing Israel of literally dozens of offenses against the Palestinian population, Palestinian institutions and even Arab Bedouins. The statement criticizes Israel for “expansion of settlements and settler violence, planning restrictions and the consequent acute house shortage, house demolitions, evictions and displacements, confiscation of land, difficult access to natural resources, and the lack of basic social services and assistance…” The resolution even accuses Israel of “creating an institutional and leadership vacuum in the local Palestinian population.”
In June, EU “Foreign Minister” Catherine Ashton, who has a well-earned reputation for making statements that seek to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state, criticized Israeli policies that “are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.” Since assuming her post in December 2009, Ashton has never criticized Palestinian obstructionism and their setting impossible preconditions for entering genuine peace talks with Israel. (In March, Ashton famously equated the killing of three children at a Jewish school in France with “what is happening in Gaza.”)
In May, the EU’s 27 foreign ministers unanimously condemned “the ongoing evictions and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, changes to the residency status of Palestinians…the prevention of peaceful Palestinian cultural, economic, social or political activities…the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population…of jeopardizing the major achievements of the Palestinian Authority in state-building…the continuous settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians…” But nowhere does the document call on the Palestinian Authority to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, a move that arguably more than any other would advance Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
In January 2012, the EU published a document called “The EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem” which makes an urgent plea for the EU to adopt a more “active and visible” implementation of its policy towards Israel and the peace process. Authored by EU delegations to the Palestinian Authority, the document includes severe recommendations meant to strengthen Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and coerce Israel to change its policy in the West Bank.
The document recommends that the European Union fund Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank without Israel’s cooperation, undermining Israeli control. But under the Oslo Accords, Area C is under full Israeli civil and security control; it contains all of Israel’s West Bank settlements and a small Palestinian population. The EU document also states that Israel’s policies are undermining the prospect of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and calls on Israel to support Palestinian construction across Area C and in East Jerusalem.
The report includes a radical proposal for “appropriate EU legislation to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity.” Under the proposal, the European Commission would use legislation to force European companies to stop doing business with companies involved in settlement construction and commercial activities. Recommendations include the preparation of a “blacklist” of settlers considered violent in order to consider later the option of banning them from entering the European Union. The document also seeks to encourage more PA activity and representation in East Jerusalem.
The report advises senior EU figures visiting East Jerusalem to refrain from being escorted by official Israeli representatives or security personnel. In addition, the document encourages officials to instruct European tourism firms to refrain from supporting Israeli businesses located in East Jerusalem and to raise EU public awareness of Israeli products originating from the settlements or from East Jerusalem.
In December 2011, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained a classified working paper produced by European embassies in Israel, which recommended that the European Union should consider Israel’s treatment of its Arab population a “core issue, not second tier to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The document is unprecedented in that it deals with internal Israeli issues. According to European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials quoted by Haaretz, the document was written and sent to EU headquarters in Brussels behind the back of the Israeli government.
Other issues the document deals with include “the lack of progress in the peace process, the continued occupation of the territories, Israel’s definition of itself as Jewish and democratic, and the influence of the Israeli Arab population.” The original document also included suggestions for action the EU should take, but these were removed from the final version at the insistence of several countries. Among these were the suggestion that the EU file an official protest every time a bill discriminating against Arabs passes a second reading in the Knesset, and that the EU ensure that all Arab towns have completed urban plans, “with each member state potentially ‘adopting’ a municipality to this end.”
Haaretz reported that, according to a European diplomat involved in drafting the report, work on it began in 2010 at the initiative of Britain. The idea was to write a report that could be debated by a forum of EU foreign ministers. At some point, however, several countries, among them the Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands, expressed objections to its contents and the document was watered down.
Also in December, four EU members of the UN Security Council issued an angry joint statement branding Israeli “settlements” in Palestinian occupied territories and East Jerusalem as “illegal under international law.” The statement said: “We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps. The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.”
While the EU continues to exert pressure on Israel, Jerusalem has been unable to extract meaningful concessions from Brussels. For example, the EU has once again rejected an Israeli request that the bloc designate the Lebanon-based Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently launched a new diplomatic push to convince the EU to outlaw Hezbollah following the murders of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver on July 18. Israel blames Hezbollah for the suicide bombing at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently heads the EU presidency, said there is “no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization,” and claimed that there is “no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism.” Lieberman has also failed to persuade Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, to “intervene” on Israel’s behalf in a controversy regarding Tunisia’s desire to include a clause in its new constitution making normalized relations with Israel a criminal offense.
As these examples and many others indicate, Israel should be under no illusion that the recent “upgrading” of bilateral relations with the European Union will end European hostility toward the Jewish state. Quite to the contrary; Israel should be expecting an increase in European meddling in its internal affairs.
Met dank aan Tiki S. voor de hint.
Soeren Kern is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.