EU disappoints Israel with statement on the Middle East Peace Process

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union, composed of the foreign ministers of all member states, adopted yesterday a number of conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process. The conclusions require both sides to reestablish a political horizon and dialogue, with the support of the EU and the international community, as the only way to stop the ongoing violence. EU wants to keep the two-state solution alive and repeats its commitment to a solution that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. The solution should resolve all permanent status issues and “end all claims”.

The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs commented that the EU had “softened” its resolution, “following a diplomatic and political effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the ministry of foreign affairs.”

That said, “The EU continues to apply double standards against Israel, while ignoring the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority for the political deadlock and the incitement that fuels the Palestinian terror. Of the about 200 border conflicts around the world, the European Union chooses to discriminate only Israel. This approach prevents the EU from being an honest broker in solving the conflict.”

In previous statements, representatives of EU, including its High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, have been outspoken in condemning the current wave of terror against innocent Israeli civilians. This time EU condemns “the terror attacks and violence of all sides” and urges them to fight incitement and hate speech.

EU states that the “underlying causes of the conflict need to be addressed” and is referring to the occupation of Palestinian territories dating from 1967. While terror is fueled by despair because of the occupation, Israel claims that the current violence was triggered by incitement in Palestinian media and continues because of the glorification of terrorists by the Palestinian Authority.

At a hearing in the European Parliament last week (13.1.2016), an Israeli NGO, Palestinian Media Watch, claimed that 25 Palestinian schools have been named after terrorists. The schools are indirectly funded by EU since it pays the teachers’ salaries. Palestinian TV regularly broadcasts hate speech against Israel and Jews, including by representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

According to EU official Michael Docherty, who spoke at the hearing, there are voices that have started to question the continued funding of the Palestinian authority when there is no political solution in sight. Most of the EU assistance is paid as support to the UN organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and as direct financial support to the salaries of civil servants.

He referred to a critical report by the European Courts of Auditors. EU has decided to implement most of the audit recommendations on improving financial management but rejected the recommendation on applying conditions for the assistance as normally is the case in other countries. The future is unforeseeable and Palestinian government is seen as not being able to control events.

The Council conclusions, however, are quite specific as regards the need for the Palestinian Authority to improve its performance. EU calls on the Palestinian government to work towards democratic elections, build up strong and democratic institutions, and to respect the rule of law and human rights.

EU feels that there is a need to remind both sides about the need to restart the peace process and is therefore pushing them to carry out constructive steps to calm down the situation and to pave the ground for resuming peace talks. Such talks did take place in the past even when terror acts happened.

As a carrot for restarting the peace process, EU reiterated its offer to both parties of a package of European political, economic and security support and of a Special Privileged Partnership with EU.

But according to Shuli Davidovich, deputy head of the Israeli mission to the EU, the EU – Israeli dialogue had reached a low point. At the hearing last week, she said: “We have the feeling that Europe isn’t listening to us. We don’t need anyone to tell us that we need a peace process.”

An EU measure which led to a strong Israeli reaction – overreaction according to some - was the recent EU guidelines on labelling products from the settlements. The Council conclusions stress “that this does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly condemns.”

Israel claims that it was bad timing to issue the guidelines in the middle of a Palestinian wave of terror and that the Palestinian authority understood them as there is no need to negotiate about anything.

The Brussels Times

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