Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Worrying signals from Europe - Zalman Shoval



by Zalman Shoval

The main point is not necessarily the argument over "two states" -- and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already explained Israel's position in this regard -- but the EU's desire to unilaterally dictate formulas that do not take Israel's most basic interests into consideration, all while adhering to the Palestinians' most extreme demands.

Once the new Israeli government was formed, European dignitaries began visiting at an increased rate, arriving with warnings that Israel must soon launch a "diplomatic initiative" to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, or expect growing pressure in the form of various concrete measures. 

According to their declarations, the Europeans intend to "play a leading role in re-launching the peace process based on the two-state solution," largely predicated on the French proposal to immediately resume talks with a timetable of a year and a half to draft a final status agreement, after which, if a deal is not reached, "France will recognize Palestine as a state."

As the wording of the proposal illustrates, France's whip is aimed strictly at Israel and on the surface seems to lack any type of balanced approach between the sides. The expressions of supposed concern for the Israeli position and Jerusalem's interests are mostly lip service. For instance, when the French mention "the security arrangements Israel requires," they do not explain how they intend to ensure such arrangements, which would have to include a demilitarized Palestine, safe borders, and the like. This is the proposal, which treats the establishment of a Palestinian state as a foregone conclusion and does not allow Israel any say over the security limitations to be placed on the Palestinians.

It is difficult not to notice the European Union's undertone that it has decided to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, even without any real negotiations and regardless of Israel's positions on the matter.

Several European countries are indeed friends and overt supporters of Israel, as they have been for many years, but when it comes to the Palestinian issue it appears other countries are setting the tone, perhaps also because of their own demographic reality, as in France, for example. It is possible, though, that the EU's unraveling seams, demonstrated by Britain's threat to withdraw from it, could actually work in Israel's favor over time.

In a fairer and more ethical world, it would be possible to expect Europe, of all places, with all its history concerning the Jewish people, to unite in an unwavering effort to combat anti-Semitism, whether in its more ancient form or in its new anti-Zionist and anti-Israel disguise, and to try curbing academic and economic boycotts. In reality, it is actually considering measures that would leave Israel alone in the face of its enemies' machinations. 

The main point is not necessarily the argument over "two states" -- and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already explained Israel's position in this regard -- but the EU's desire to unilaterally dictate formulas that do not take Israel's most basic interests into consideration, all while adhering to the Palestinians' most extreme demands.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the Palestinians are encouraged by the statements coming from the EU and are hardening their stance accordingly. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, "the angel of peace," says the Palestinian refugees in Syria must not relinquish their right of return, and his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, "the deputy angel," announced following a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the Palestinians would be willing to renew talks with Israel only if it first agrees to all the preconditions.

This is not the first time (and certainly won't be the last) that Europe has tried making its mark on the Palestinian issue while outflanking the United States, but we can hope that, as in the past, Washington will take the wind out of its sails. Indeed, we received an encouraging sign over the weekend that despite the differences of opinion over the Iranian nuclear program, the Obama administration is sticking to traditional U.S. policies when it comes to Israel's vital interests, not only on security assistance, but, perhaps even more importantly, by defeating the Egyptian initiative to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. 

We must hope this positive approach will be applied to the French proposal as well, when it is presented in the coming weeks to the U.N. Security Council. As a practical conclusion, it is clear the American viewpoint must continue to play a central role in whatever diplomatic initiatives the Israeli government chooses to pursue.


Zalman Shoval

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=12687

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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