Reflect. React. Rethink. Resume.

Dutch MEP, Bastiaan Belder The start of a new year is an excellent time for reflection. When looking at the past year, I can’t help but notice that the struggle for Israel’s security in Europe remains. One needs to keep reacting to efforts that seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in Europe and it’s security in the Middle East.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing in Europe. This BDS movement may be strong but it’s not powerful. Thankfully, there are true friends of Israel inside Europe and the European institutions. They work hard to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism within the European Union. They did it again, when faced with the strong negative draft joint motion for resolution on the EU’s role in the Middle East Peace Process that was adopted in the European Parliament last week.

In a very short timeframe, they had to reflect and think of strategies to tone down the language proposed by the Socialist and Democrats Party. The proposed resolution contained so much negative language that it was almost impossible to imagine any agreement by all political parties on a joint text. After four hours of negotiations, in which the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the first and third largest parties at the Parliament, teamed up to delete the most poisonous language from the document. The end result is still not satisfying, but much worse was prevented.

They are the face of the true friends of Israel in Europe. They seek to achieve the best possible outcome with what they’re given – a very bad deal. Nevertheless, they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We reacted and used our political weight to tone down the text as much as feasibly possible. It was the choice of the lesser evil.

We took out, for example, the wording, which called for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners currently serving sentences in Israeli jails. The ECR and EPP refused profusely to include any such reference, arguing that some terrorists are in prison because they planned to commit, directly or indirectly, a terrorist act. Releasing such people would go entirely against peace and EU values. Finally, the left was forced to make a huge concession to leave out any such reference in the final draft of the resolution.

Other wording that was deleted from the text included the call for the labelling of Israeli produce originating from entities beyond the green line. The draft text called for the ‘correct labelling of Israeli settlement produce on the EU market, in line with existing EU legislation’. The ECR and the EPP once again used their political weight and demanded any such reference be omitted. How can, we argued, such reference be conducive to the EU’s attempt to create a positive environment in which peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians can resume?

Another success of our persistence was the inclusion of the passage that any rocket fire into Israel by militant groups is unacceptable and that it is imperative for the EU to work in partnership with Israel to prevent the re-arming of terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the basic notion of Palestinian terrorism is always downplayed in the corridors of the European institutions. It is the friends of Israel who remind their left-wing colleagues, that the latter is the root cause for instability in the region and the true obstacle to peace.

All in all, the end result is not perfect but worse was prevented. In Europe, the friends of Israel, want to retain strong economic, scientific and security cooperation with Israel. Side by side with the Jewish state, we want to equally benefit from EU-Israeli collaboration and secure and safe and prosperous future for both our regions. We therefore will continue to work hard to secure strong EU-Israel relations and expand our cooperation in this coming new year.

Bastiaan Belder is a Dutch member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as Vice-Chair of the Israel Delegation. He is also an advisory board member of the Europe-Israel Public Affairs.

This Op-Ed was posted on The Jerusalem Post on the September 25th 2015

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