1) The Union Strikes Back
The European Union (EU) has just released new regulations governing certain dealings with Israel.
Starting in 2014, the EU (as a unit, individual states are not governed by these guidelines) will prohibit any dealings with private Israeli entities that live or operate in Judea and Samaria, what is otherwise known as the West Bank. The idea is to make a distinction to show Europe’s seriousness about considering Israel’s “occupation” to be in violation of international law.
(image courtesy of Elder of Ziyon)
The Europeans seem ready to give Israel a little shove, which could either bring Israel back to the table or backfire. Many Israeli officials say the blame for the impasse on negotiations lies not with them but with a dysfunctional, fractured Palestinian leadership that refuses even to talk without preconditions.
This is typical reporter-speak, using a qualification to obscure a truth. Yes, “many Israeli officials say,” but what they’re saying is the truth, as documented by the Washington Post’s own Jackson Diehl.
The New York Times gives more space to the pro-EU voices, but quotes an anonymous Israeli, who, as we show later on, is exactly correct.:
But a senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding Mr. Kerry’s diplomatic initiative, said Tuesday night that the Europeans were “intentionally or inadvertently undermining” the active American engagement in the peace process that they had been calling for for years.
“Why would any Palestinian leader agree to re-engage if they can get what they want without negotiating?” the official said. “Why enter the give and take of negotiations when you can just take what is offered by international bodies?”
Commenting on the directives target, ADL stated settlements should not be considered an obstacle to peace.
“Successive Israeli governments from the start of the peace process, including the current one, have maintained that construction beyond the ‘Green Line’does not contradict the Israeli commitment to a negotiated resolution of all the core issues,” ADL stated in the letter to the EU foreign policy chief.
Even people who claim that “everyone knows” what shape an eventual agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will take acknowledge that Efrat, for example, will remain part of Israel.
Israel is partially at fault for not having a clear, consistent, legal-based message to world diplomats on issues like Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Beyond the legalities, though, is the reality that the poster above means to show: the world is targeting Jews, and only Jews. See this great post by Yaacov Lozowick on Beit Safafa for examples of Arab Israelis who moved to the other side of the Green Line and are never considered “settlers”.
Israel is doing a poor job at explaining its side of the story, and EU documents like this – even if only an incremental step – are the result. Nothing Israel is doing points to moving the discourse in any other direction. So things like the verbiage “borders,” instead of causing a firestorm, are roundly believed to be accurate.
As noted above, however, the EU is also showing that even as a member of the Quartet, it has no interest in adhering to the premises of the so-called peace process.
Back in late 1995, the LA Times reported:
In the last seven weeks Israel has handed over six West Bank towns and more than 400 villages to the Palestinian Authority. The authority now controls about 90% of the West Bank’s more than 1 million Arabs, and about one-third of the land in the Delaware-size territory.
For nearly 20 years, the occupation has been over. Subsequent to Israel’s relinquishing political control of most Palestinians the Palestinians have twice refused to make final deals with Israel. (In 2000-1 it was Yasser Arafat who wouldn’t make a deal with Israeli PM Ehud Barak and in 2008 it was Mahmoud Abbas who wouldn’t response to Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s offer.) In 2000 Arafat launched a terror war against Israel in contravention of the very premises of the peace process and the PLO’s supposed rehabilitation from being a terrorist organization. Yet the Palestinian refusal to deal in good faith prompted no comparable action by the EU. Why not?
In fact the European guidelines play into the hands of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who wrote two years ago in the New York Times:
Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.
That was a clear declaration that he had no interest in negotiating with Israel, preferring instead, to rely on international organization to pressure Israel into giving him all he wants. Abbas showed his contempt for the peace process, and Europe has just provided support for his strategy.
The timing of this announcement is also beyond bizarre. The guidelines state:
These guidelines do not cover EU support in the form of grants, prizes or financial instruments awarded to Palestinian entities or to their activities in the territories referred to in point 2, nor any eligibility conditions set up for this purpose. In particular, they do not cover any agreements between the EU, on the one hand, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand.
But who benefits from such funding? A few weeks ago a senior official of the Palestinian Authority wrote an op-ed published at several Palestinian websites criticizing the PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas. Part of Sufian Abu Zayda’s complaint was summarized by Khaled Abu Toameh:
Abu Zayda and other Palestinian officials say that Abbas’s autocratic regime reminds them of the days when Yasser Arafat ran the Palestinian Authority as his private fiefdom.
No one dreamed that we would reach a situation where all the powers and top positions would be concentrated in the hands of one man, said Abu Zayda. Today, Abbas even has more powers than Arafat.
Abbas, according to Abu Zayda, has also appointed himself as the chief judge and prosecutor, making a mockery of the Palestinian judicial system.
Two days after the publication of Mr. Abu Zaida’s op-ed, WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, carried a rebuttal signed only by “The Security Establishment.” It denounced Mr. Abu Zaida for serving “a foreign agenda” and being a tool of “enemy media.” Then it sang Mr. Abbas’s praises in a style worthy of Egyptian state media under Hosni Mubarak.
It was a characteristically thuggish performance, which unwittingly proved Mr. Abu Zaida’s point. If Palestinians want to be interesting again, and worthy of decent respect, they could start by not playing to tin-pot type.
The European Union should not be credited with a good faith effort to restart negotiations. It is using the peace process as a cover for supporting an increasingly authoritarian Mahmoud Abbas, whose main concern is his own wealth and power, as it becomes gradually more hostile to Israel.
Stephen Leavitt suggests a number of ways Israel could strike back against the EU, including hitting it where it hurts: the pocketbook:
2) It makes them feel good but who will they hurt?
The third step is financial.
The EU invested close to 1 billion dollars in research grants and investments, some of which could now be lost.
Israel should approach private, patriotic wealthy Jews — Sheldon Adelson, who put his money where his mouth was this past U.S. election, comes to mind — to pick up the slack. In return, those who invest in Israeli research will reap the benefits in royalties, shared patent ownership and so on. They could stand to make a lot of money.
Sodastream, an Israeli company with factories in the West Bank, could be impacted by these regulations.
Will the EU regret it if the hundreds of Palestinians and Arabs working alongside Jews lose their jobs because of their new rules?
Given the history of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activism, self-congratulations seems to be the goal, not actually accomplishing any good.