Middle East peace process
Brussels 18 May: The European Foreign Affairs Council – made up of foreign Affairs Ministers from across the EU and High Representive Mogherini will convene to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Usually these meetings don’t cause too much in the way of ripples, but this one carries with it some extra spice:
Mrs Mogherini will meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel almost immediately afterwards.
The message that she will bring with her from her EU agency and the member states will more than likely shape the short-to mid term future of EU-Israel relations. In other words, a big deal then.
In a background note prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS) ahead of both meetings Mogherini’s agency laid out some of its thinking in broad brush terms.
Mogherini congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new government on their appointment. The European Union will continue to work with Israel on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on issues of joint interest, she said.
The note went on to state:
“The EU re-iterated its support for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that should lead to an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
A comprehensive peace should fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including those of Israelis for security and those of Palestinians for statehood.
The EU has a strategic interest in ensuring an end to the conflict and is willing to actively contribute to a negotiated solution of all final status issues. The EU High Representative has declared her readiness to personally engage in order to facilitate further progress. In addition, the Council appointed Fernando Gentilini as EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process on 15 April 2015.
The EU recognises Israel in its 1967 borders and has not ceased to repeat that settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law. The EU’s concern about the fact that settlement activity increasingly threatens the very possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict has grown in the last years. At the same time, the Council has underlined the EU’s commitment to ensure full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements.
The EU is the largest aid contributor to the Palestinians, with substantial support for the benefit of the Gaza population: in the last ten years the EU has spent more than €1.3 billion in the Gaza Strip. At the donors’ conference for Gaza in October 2014, the EU and its member states pledged more than €450 million for its reconstruction.”
So far, so standard. But as we all know, the devil is in the details. We need to read between the lines.
We don’t know the shape of the political leverage that the EU is willing to bring on Israel as a price for continued settlement construction, much less what it intends to do to secure it’s “strategic interest” in the region.
These two fundamental questions, potentially backed up by anticipated European Parliamentary resolutions on the subject, will frame the conversations and debate between the EU and Israel in the short months ahead.3