Commenting on the EU press release issued on February 12, 2016 that describes High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini’s latest conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, PLO Executive Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said:
“Such a statement is alarming evidence that the EU is not only backtracking on its long-standing policies, it is also bowing to Israeli pressures.
Ashrawi said that by exclusively “expressing solidarity with the people of Israel who have suffered from terrorist violence,” the EU is disregarding the occupation itself and the power asymmetry it represents, and it is actually falling into the trap of using Israeli misrepresentations as though the Israelis are the victims, the Palestinians are the habitual terrorists and the occupation does not actually exist.
“Rather than using the formulaic condemnation of “all terrorist acts and incitement to terrorism and violence,” the EU would do better to acknowledge that the real incitement and provocation are Israeli government and settler violence, as well as the culture of hate and racism generated by the occupation.”
Repeating the mantra of commitment to “the security of the State of Israel” is a clear adoption of the Israeli refrain that its security should be the priority of any international stance or initiative. Ending the Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and the theft of their lands and resources is the genuine path to security and stability for the whole region.
By stressing the “interpretative notice” nature of the anti-settlement guidelines and stating that such guidelines are left to the discretion of individual countries, the statement is attempting to dilute EU decisions and polices and to send a palliative message to Israel.
It is extremely alarming that the EU has deliberately omitted any reference to the 1967 borders. This sin of omission is again providing Israel with another needless concession, which is inconsistent with EU policies, UN resolutions and global consensus. Having accepted the painful compromise of the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, the Palestinians do not view this as a negotiable proposition or subject to modifications. The EU has repeatedly insisted on 1967 boundaries; to misrepresent this position now as preempting “final status issues” is entirely disingenuous since this has always been the basis of the “peace process. Such backsliding is not the way “to relaunch the two-state perspective”!
In expressing its “opposition to boycotts against Israel and its firm rejection of BDS attempts to isolate Israel,” the EU is implying that Israel should not be held accountable and that the Palestinians should not resort to nonviolent means of resistance. Governments, corporations, institutions, and individuals should have the right to choose to behave in accordance with international law and with their own conscience without such blanket proscription.
In the largely benign statement that described Mogherini and Netanyahu discussing “the current situation on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza, in particular Area C, including demolitions,” one of the most serious violations and persistent confrontational policies are brushed aside— Israel is deliberately annexing large plots of land in Area C and repeatedly demolishing homes and EU-funded projects. This is hardly a topic of conversation to be presented in an abstract neutral statement. The gravity of Israel’s deliberate destruction of the two-state solution, specifically in imposing unilateral measures on the ground and targeting Area C, should not be the subject of “EU-Israel dialogue,” but rather the emphasis should be on concrete actions to bring Israel to compliance and to put an immediate end to such measures. Instead, Israel is to get further preferential treatment by convening the EU-Israel Association Council and using “all mechanisms available under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.”
Clearly, the statement is at best an evasive tactic, at worst a deliberate whitewash. Israel should not be bribed or given a clean bill of health in order to allow the EU “to play its role in the Middle East process.” Rather than rewarding Israel, the EU should insist on maintaining a position of clarity and courage to hold Israel accountable if it wants to rescue the two-state solution. Accommodating Israel will only enable it to persist in its destructive and dangerous policies; on the contrary, it will undermine the credibility of the EU and jeopardize the chances of peace even further. One would hope that it is not too late for the EU to undo the damage and rectify the situation as soon as possible.”