by Herb Keinon
Second document in as many days critiques Israel for anti-democratic bills, anti-Arab discrimination, not prosecuting settler violence; Israeli official says focus is misplaced.For the second day in a row the European Union issued a document that had some harsh words for Israel, saying a spate of "potentially discriminatory or even anti-democratic bills" were tabled in the Knesset, and blasting Jerusalem for not prosecuting those responsible for settler violence.
The criticism came in an annual document summarizing the political, economic and security situation in Israel as part of the EU's review of its partnership with other countries known as the European Neighborhood Policy.
Regarding the Knesset bills the EU deems problematic, the report stated that while the democratic process ensured that many of the bills would not become law, "their number, and the scant effort made by their proponents to hide the fact that they were intended to benefit or target specific individuals or organizations, is worrying. These bills tend to antagonize relations with the Arab minority, complicate the space in which civil society organizations of one side of the political spectrum operate, attempt to rein in the Supreme Court and potentially infringe on the freedom of speech."
While saying that the IDF recently stepped up interventions against settlement violence, the report said the overwhelming majority of cases filed with the Israeli police against such attacks were closed without indictment.
In addition, the report found "media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly remained problematic in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2011." It also said Palestinian economic and social rights remained "hampered by Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement," and that "the risk of forced displacement of Bedouin communities increased."
Furthermore, the report said that "progress on the situation of the Arab minority was limited." It also said women’s rights in the country "have become the subject of increasing debate as a result of a more aggressive attitude on the part of the ultra-Orthodox groups."
On the plus side, the report said Israel had a "good performance" in the fight against corruption, and continued to protect the independence of the judiciary.
One diplomatic official said that the report reflected more on the EU than on the realities on the ground. It is all a question of focus, the official said.
To illustrate his point, the official said that if one wanted to paint Europe in a negative light it could write a report underlining the rise of radical right-wing parties and interpreting that to mean that the fabric of European life was in danger. On the other hand, one could instead also write a report showing how the European framework, so painstakingly cobbled together after World War II, survived even during a time of severe economic strain.
What is problematic about the EU report, he said, was it chose to highlight and zoom in on the negative.
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