In light of the US monopolization of the thus-far failing talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, and the exclusion of other international powers from the negotiations, it is time to reconsider the methodology of the peace process and the makeup of those in charge of it. The Palestinians should apply pressure to push for reintroducing the European Union (EU) and other powers into the process.
Palestinians have become accustomed to criticizing the EU for its weak influence on the political track when compared with the dominant role of the United States. While Palestinians admit that the EU is more generous in terms of the financial assistance it provides the Palestinian Authority (PA), they continue to discredit it for playing only a secondary role when it comes to political influence. It is only natural that the EU would be dissatisfied with an equation in which they pay more, but get less influence.
A key European figure revealed to Al-Monitor that one reason behind the dwindling European role in the peace process is the Palestinians’ lax stance, which does not insist on an active European presence in the process. The Palestinians have a number of cards that they could play to exert pressure in favor of activating the roles of the EU and other international parties, such as Russia, China and India. There also are other areas worth examining concerning the EU’s position toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The EU and the Palestinian cause
Some believe that the EU role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict began with the 1993 Oslo Accords. In fact, the position of the EU toward the Palestinian cause dates back to 1971, when the Europeans suggested a delineation of borders between Israel and neighboring Arab states. This was followed by the Vienna Declaration of 1980, when the EU acknowledged the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.
With time, the European stance developed significantly, with member states announcing their readiness in the Venice Declaration to acknowledge the statehood of Palestine by the end of the interim period set out in the Oslo Accords. The agreement stipulated a five-year transitional phase, from 1994 to 1999, at the end of which the Palestinians would announce the creation of a state, in May 1999. Simultaneously, the phase of final status would begin. The Palestinians, however, did not proclaim their state.
In 1993, with Oslo, the EU had reaffirmed its support for a peaceful process to enable the Palestinians to establish an independent state with strong institutions capable of fulfilling their duties toward the Palestinian people. The EU lent financial support to the PA in three areas:
According to official EU reports obtained by Al-Monitor, the EU contributes to development and relief internationally with grants of about $14 billion annually. Over the past five years, this contribution has totaled $66 billion, distributed among 100 third-world nations. Of this amount, 4% was allocated to the Palestinians, including in the areas covered by UNRWA. European support for the Palestinian people in 2008 totaled $800 million in 2008 and $500 million in 2011. The Europeans’ support is considered the most organized and the least politicized, because it is not related to stances taken by the PA. For example, assistance was not halted when PA President Mahmoud Abbas sought to obtain non-member observer status for Palestine in the United Nations in September 2011 and November 2012, nor when Hamas assumed power in Gaza in June 2007.
In a remarkable and strategic development, the EU unexpectedly decided in June 2013 to boycott goods and services produced in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands. In a July 19 statement, the EU announced that member states would halt cooperation, financial, technical and research assistance to Israeli institutions and bodies operating beyond the country’s 1967 borders in the occupied territories.
The EU decision was not limited to boycotting goods produced in the settlements. Although settlement products are important — given that Israel is a major trading partner for the EU and Mediterranean countries, and the EU is Israel’s leading trade partner, with goods worth approximately $40 billion in 2011 — the decision also included Israeli institutions and universities, barring them from receiving EU funding, grants, prizes, and tenders. It also barred them from participating in joint research with EU organizations.
While at first glance the EU decision may seem strictly economic, it was also politics par excellence. The determination was made on the basis that Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands minimize the chances of reaching a two-state solution, making impractical the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with political sovereignty and economic capacity.
Nevertheless, the PA and Palestinian civil society organizations have failed to appreciate the EU stance. This might be in part because despite the boycott of settlement products, 25,000 Palestinians work in Israeli companies in the West Bank settlements. Moreover, wealthy Palestinian businessmen have dealings with their Israeli counterparts, who manage large enterprises and commercial networks in the settlements.
In an article that caused quite a stir, The Sunday Times (London) reported on Oct. 13 that a committee of auditors found that $2.7 billion in European assistance provided to the PA between 2008 and 2012 had been lost. The newspaper did not publish the full report, but in response to the article, the EU announced that a complete report would be forthcoming at the end of the year. The PA is yet to comment on the report, despite the seriousness of its content. It seems that the figure mentioned in the newspaper might have been exaggerated, considering that European financial assistance during the years cited does not exceed $3.5 billion.
Nevertheless, it seems that some Palestinians do not fully appreciate the EU’s political and developmental role, and thus do not approach European financial aid with sufficient diligence. The EU certainly assumes a great deal of responsibility in its modest political activities and monitoring of funds. Yet, the responsibility of the Palestinian side is much greater. It is in the Palestinians’ interest that the EU play an active role in the peace process and show diligence in investing its financial support.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.