One year after the State of Israel introduced a law that required supermarkets to charge customers for the use of plastic bags use of the bags has dropped by 80 per cent, and bag waste found in the sea has halved, according to government sources. Such a rewarding news for UN Environment’s EU-funded SwitchMed project and its Israeli partners who have contributed to this success.
Big supermarkets must charge their customers at least 0.10 Israeli new shekels (about $US 0.03) for each bag, and must show the cost of the bags on the customer’s bill. Additionally, supermarkets must report the number of bags distributed to the Government, and proceeds of the sale go to the government to fund projects to cut air pollution throughout the country.
The law comes in part as a result of UN Environment’s SwitchMed’s work with the country to set up a National Action Plan on sustainable consumption and production.
A two-day policy workshop run by UN Environment’s EU-funded SwitchMed project entitled “Policy Tools for Circular Economy” held in Jerusalem in 2014 highlighted facilitated the formulation of the legislation by highlighting the lessons learnt from similar laws internationally.
Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection, MK Zeev Elkin, highlighted how successful the law has been by international standards. “We see 80 per cent reduction in plastic bags consumption in less than a year,” he said. “This is a success even in worldwide standards. For comparison, an 80 per cent reduction rate in the use of disposable bags at large retailers is the European Union’s target for 2020, for which five years of deployment have been given. I am proud of the Israeli public that understands the importance of reducing plastic bags waste and changed its behaviour so rapidly”.
The SwitchMed sustainable consumption and production programme aims to promote a switch by the Mediterranean economies towards sustainable consumption and production patterns and green economy, including low-emission development, through demonstration and dissemination of methods that improve resource and energy efficiency. It also seeks to minimise the environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of products and services and, where possible, to promote renewable energy.
The article was published at the EU Neighborhood Centre website
It looks like the EU is anxious to try and fill the US’ role as a peace mediator. From the EU External Action website:
Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini have decided to convene an extraordinary session of the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC).
There is an urgent need to bring all parties together to discuss measures to speed up efforts that can underpin a negotiated two-state solution.
Furthermore it is necessary to enable the Palestinian Authority to execute full control over Gaza, based on the Cairo agreement from 12 October 2017.
The meeting will be held in Brussels on 31 January 2018 at Ministerial level, hosted by the European Union and chaired by Norway.
The impression one gets from this is not that the EU particularly expects to gain any more traction towards peace than it has in the past 69 years. Instead, it feels like the EU sees an apparent vacuum created by the US — and wants to fill that vacuum by giving Palestinians more money, and by tacitly agreeing with them that Jerusalem belongs to them as a basis for negotiations.
In this case, peace isn’t the goal. In reality, the EU is using the conflict to make itself look more relevant.
Because if the EU wanted peace, taking Jerusalem off the table and admitting that the city is Jewish is the single most effective move that the EU could make towards pushing Palestinians to compromise — rather than insisting on acting like a victor that can impose its terms on the region.
The Article was Published on The Algemeiner
Europe Israel Public Affairs applauds the decision of US President Donald Trump to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
The move comes after more than two decades after the adoption by the US Congress of Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Every 6 months the sitting American President would sign a waiver from that bill.
President Trump opened his historical address stating “It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done”
Czech Republic followed suit becoming the first EU country to break the bloc of Member States and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
EIPA Director Alex Benjamin observed that despite differences between EU and Israel over the 1967 imposed borders, and most vehemently over the settlements issue, more EU countries should consider acknowledging the de facto status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “We fail to see the reasons for High Representative Federica Mogherini ‘serious concerns’. The US announcement does not prejudge nor impose borders for Jerusalem, which are still subject to final status talks. It merely reflects the historical accuracy of the last five decades, during which Jerusalem functioned as Israel’s capital.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EIPA Founder added “Historical evidence attests our Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating way back to 3000 years ago. Jerusalem has always been our home. It is about time state leaders catch up with history and acknowledge this indisputable fact.”
The Balfour Declaration was a document signed in November 2, 1917, by then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, which declared Britain would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the historic declaration, the Palestinian delegation in London launched an accusatory campaign according to which “the declaration helped establish the State of Israel and led to the Palestinian disaster.”
The campaign includes posters with photographs of what is described as “the peaceful life of the Arab population in Palestine” before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, alongside photographs taken after the establishment of Israel that purport to show the “destruction and bereavement among the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinians planned to hang the posters at London Underground stations, where hundreds of thousands of people pass every day.
But Transport for London (TfL), the authority responsible for the transport system in Greater London, refused to allow the hanging of the posters on the grounds that the ads “did not comply fully with our guidelines.”
These guidelines bar “images or messages which relate to matters of public controversy or sensitivity.”
“Palestinian history is a censored history,” Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, claimed. “There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British government’s broken promise, in the Balfour declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people. TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative. There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine.”
The British Foreign Office denied Palestinian claims it was involved in the decision to disqualify the campaign.
The European Parliament Committee on Security and Defencewill discuss the Security situation in the Middle East next Monday 25th September.
An exchange of views on the situation in the Middle East with a focus on US-Israel relations and perspectives is scheduled in the presence of experts including:
- Mr Marco Morettini, Deputy Head of Division for Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and Regional Policies, EEAS (European External Action Service)
- Mr Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, U.S.
- Mr Yossi Kuperwasser, Senior Fellow, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Israel
The debate will emphasize the need for a common strategy between the EU, US and Israel to implement talks on the peace process and setting up a common position for the security and stability of the Middle East.
HERE you can follow the live broadcast of the event from 3.00 P.M.
Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.
Lars Faaborg-Andersen left Israel at the end of August after a four-year stint as the European Union’s ambassador, lamenting the fact that, despite excellent bilateral ties, many Israelis still perceive Europe as a bastion of anti-Israel bias and antisemitism.
Europe-Israel relations are “rock solid,” he tells The Jerusalem Report, but the focus invariably is on the areas of disagreement, which account for no more than 15-20 percent of the relationship, in his estimation.
“I think it is kind of frustrating when we consider the track record we have of cooperation. And it’s not like we are at a standstill ‒ we are adding new areas of cooperation all the time, including most notably, I would say, anti-terrorism, which is a common threat to us and we have a lot to learn from each other,” he says.
“We have a lot to learn from Israel on many of the technical aspects of fighting terror and I think Israel might have something to learn from us on some of the social and political aspects of fighting terror, including issues such as deradicalization. So, I think, given the flourishing nature of our cooperation, it is frustrating to see us portrayed as being anti-Israel.”
In a farewell news conference in Tel Aviv, the Danish diplomat said there is not only a great misunderstanding on the part of Israelis over the role of the European Union, but also on EU policy and objectives.
Much of the friction concerns settlements as Brussels has been consistently critical of Israeli West Bank construction and insists that any agreement with Israel include a clause that excludes EU funding from reaching any Jewish community over the 1967 Green Line ‒ the West Bank, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. Indeed, Israel briefly suspended diplomatic discussions with the EU after Brussels decided to label goods imported from Jewish settlements.
Recently, there was tension over Israel’s demolition of a number of illegally built Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control, which had been partially financed by the EU or EU-member states.
Faaborg-Andersen doesn’t attempt to deny the differences of opinion, but stresses that they mustn’t overshadow the mutually beneficial bilateral ties that have an immense impact on Israel.
“Europe remains Israel’s biggest trading partner, the biggest partner in science and technology, the biggest partner in transportation and, maybe in the future, the biggest partner in energy,” he says. “Israel remains the EU’s most significant partner in the region. This is why we have some difficulty understanding the perception that the EU is anti-Israel.
“When you look at the facts it’s very different. There is also criticism that we are engaged in boycotting Israel. How can people get that idea to square with the fact that we have 32 billion euros in mutual trade every year? The EU is the single biggest public funder of science and research in this country. This doesn’t sound like a boycott to me.”
If Israelis were aware of the true nature of the bilateral relationship, he says their perceptions of Europe would change – also when it comes to antisemitism.
“Antisemitism in Europe is a phenomenon we are combating ‒ even more than Israel is ‒ and we are actually taking very determined steps to do something about it, including through cooperation with Internet providers and closing down websites that have antisemitic content, and we actually have good results on this.”
More than five decades of trade, cultural exchanges, political cooperation and a developed system of agreements have cemented bilateral relations. The 28-member bloc (soon to shrink to 27 after Brexit) accounts for about one-third of Israel’s total trade, and it was the EU’s 24th ranked trade partner globally in 2015.
Furthermore, Israel was the first non- European country to be associated with the EU Framework Program back in 1996, and its participation in the various cooperation programs since has been a success story giving added value to both sides. Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 program, signed in 2014, for instance, enabled thousands of Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs to cooperate with their European and international counterparts in cutting-edge scientific projects.
More recently, the 2013 Open Skies agreement has opened up scores of European destinations for Israeli tourists with lowcost flights and turned Israel into a regional flight hub.
Faaborg-Andersen’s tenure in Israel included a war, elections and the frustration of ongoing diplomatic deadlock in attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
He warns that the breakdown of peace negotiations combined with ongoing settlement activity makes the prospects for a two-state solution increasingly impractical. The diplomatic deadlock, he warns, could have serious implications for Israel’s longterm security and Palestinian aspirations, creating a potentially dangerous reality that may be exploited by radical elements in the region.
The outgoing EU ambassador met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about 10 times during his four-year stint and the EU assumption is that the Israeli leader remains committed to the two-state solution, as he outlined in his policy speech at Bar-Ilan University in October 2013, although questions remain over what kind of Palestinian state he envisions.
Bilateral political cooperation thrives in a number of areas and includes ongoing efforts to ensure regional stability by bolstering Jordan and Egypt.
On the security front, Faaborg-Andersen acknowledges that Israel has provided real-time intelligence to European countries regarding the Islamic State threat. Two high-level Israel-EU anti-terrorism dialogues have taken place, and workshops have been held on deradicalization, terrorism financing and non-conventional terrorism, such as the cyber threat.
While sensitive to accusations of interfering in internal Israeli affairs, the ambassador has spoken out a number of times against Knesset legislation perceived either as damaging to peace prospects or anti-democratic. Two recent cases are the NGO transparency law that forced human rights groups that receive more than half their funding from abroad – including from European governments – to disclose it prominently in official reports and the law legalizing settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land.
Faaborg-Andersen believes Israeli decision makers pay attention when the EU voices concern.
“I’m sure because I know that Israel is taking into account the expected international reaction to various pieces of legislation that is put on the table in the Knesset. It was very clear during the whole discussion of the NGO transparency bill and, obviously, also when the issue of retroactive legalization of settlements on private Palestinian land was discussed.
“Of course, Israel is very attentive to what the international community thinks about what is going on here. So, I think it’s the duty of the international community, including on me as the representative of the EU, to let them know in advance what the likely reaction will be on such issues so they can take this into consideration. The worst thing would be if they weren’t aware that something would trigger a response. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called to the Knesset to discuss with different MKs exactly these issues. So, yes, indeed, I think people are listening.”
Faaborg-Andersen, who has returned to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen awaiting his next assignment, has been replaced by Italian diplomat Emanuele Giaufret as the EU’s new envoy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, attended the funeral of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Saturday.
Kohl died at the age of 87 on June 16.
The burial ceremony was also attended by world leaders including current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton.
The prime minister was reportedly asked to speak during the ceremony, but respectively declined due to the Shabbot observance.
Netanyahu thanked Merkel before the funeral for concluding procedures ahead of the signing of a memorandum of understanding for security assistance between both nations after Germany’s National Security Council reportedly approved the sale of three advanced submarines to Israel on Saturday.
According to the report, Israel will receive three more Dolphin submarines in a $1.5 billion deal with German shipmaker ThyssenKrupp.
Macron also told Netanyahu that he expects the premier to attend an event in Paris marking the 75 anniversary of Jewish expulsion from France scheduled in two weeks. Netanyahu along with Macron are both expected to speak at the event.
Following the late German leader’s death, Netanyahu praised Kohl’s “commitment to Israel’s security” during his tenure as chancellor, and expressed appreciation for his “empathy” for the Jewish state.
“His sympathy for Israel and Zionism is reflected in my many meetings with him,” Netanyahu continued, “and his position was always firmly in favor of Israel, which has been steadily present in Europe and in other international forums.”
The article was published on The JPost
Jerusalem continues outreach to subregional groups.
Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Budapest next month for a meeting with the heads of the four central European countries that make up the Visegrad group, as Israel continues to try to build relationships with various regional subgroupings around the world.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with the heads of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the summit on July 18-19.
This visit will come less than a month after Netanyahu met with the heads of Cyprus and Greece in Thessaloniki, with Israel having developed a close alliance with those EU countries. And in early May, Netanyahu went to Liberia to take part in a summit there of 15 West African states.
With Jerusalem’s relationship with the European Union often strained because of the Palestinian issue and the desire of some key voices in Brussels to link development of ties to that issue, Israel has adopted a policy of forging close ties with specific countries or groupings of countries inside the EU who are more sympathetic to Israel’s position and are also interested in having close bilateral relations.
For instance, the energy issue has bound Israel much closer to Cyprus and Greece, and the Visegrad countries find themselves interested in forging closer ties because of economic, security and energy issues as well. These countries forums, as well as inside discussions in EU institutions in Brussels.
The same dynamic is at work in Africa. With Israel having been boxed out of any formal status in the African Union, largely because of the opposition of South Africa and the Arab North African countries, it has made inroads instead with African organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States, or even ad hoc groupings, as Netanyahu did last July when he met the leaders of seven East African countries.
Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest will be the first visit there of an Israeli prime minister since the country emerged from Communist rule in 1989. He is expected to hold both bilateral talks with the leaders of each of the Visegrad countries, as well as a joint meeting as well.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Israel in May. The V4, as the Visegrad group is known, is a political and cultural alliance aimed at facilitating the integration of the four countries in European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Szijjarto told the Hungarian news agency MTI when he was in Israel that the three most important aspects of economic cooperation with Israel were in the areas of automobile navigation, water management and energy.
“The automobile industry provides the backbone of the Hungarian economy, and the future development of this sector of industry fundamentally determines the growth of the Hungarian economy,” Szijjarto highlighted.
Close cooperation with Israel could make Hungary the European center for the testing and development of self-driven vehicles, he said.
“Based on the buying up of certain companies, it has become clear that Israel will be one of the global centers for the development of [autonomous vehicles]. Israeli company NavNGo is one of the Hungarian government’s strategic partners, employs hundreds of GPS software engineers in Hungary and is one of the world leaders within the field of developing such software, and plays an extremely important role in making self-driven cars a reality,” he said.
Audi, Opel and Suzuki exports make up a huge percentage of the country’s overall exports, and Europe’s largest engine manufacturing plant is located in the country.
With regard to energy, the foreign minister – referring to Israel’s offshore operations – said: “Israel’s natural gas deposits could play a significant role in the energy security of Europe and Hungary. If extraction begins according to schedule in 2019-20, Hungary will have an interest in purchasing gas [either via a pipeline or in the form of liquefied natural gas] in view of the fact that we would like to purchase natural gas form as many sources as possible.”
The article was published on The Jerusalem Post
Government looking for ways to solve escalating situation, even as PM calls matter an ‘internal Palestinian dispute’ between Hamas, PA
Israel is in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating dispute over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.
Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.
Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.
The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.
Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.
Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.
“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”
“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.
The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.
Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.
Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.
According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.
The article was published on The Times of Israel
“Come writers and critics
Who prophesies with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Simon and Garfunkel.
The European Parliament voted on Thursday afternoon on its annual position on ways of “Achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East”. The Resolution has been postponed for a couple of months, presumably to allow the MEPs to get a better sense of the lay of the land following the US Presidential paradigm shift in pushing the process back up on the list marked “urgent” (regular readers will know from previous newsletters that many presidents prefer to ignore the Siren’s call of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)
That Members of the European Parliament reached a compromise text, the result of lengthy and often tedious negotiations, is admittedly – as one astute political observer wryly observed – a success in itself.
It is often said that building consensus across the 5 major political groups (ECR, EPP, ALDE Greens and S&D) on the Middle East Process is akin to swimming through treacle, yet this time there was a discernible move away from the standard and largely default Israel bashing position towards a much more measured and mediator conscious parliament role in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
EIPA welcomed the resolutions clear and unambiguous language that condemns “all acts of violence, acts of terrorism against Israelis, and incitement to violence which are fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-states solution”.
It seems that events and ongoing concerns about the terrorist threat in Europe is resulting n not only a much more alert Brussels, but also marks for the first time that the EU Institutions put the issue of terrorist acts and incitement ahead of the hitherto number one subject: settlements as an obstacle to peace. We at EIPA can only welcome this signal as a more thorough and balanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and much more in line with the Quartet report.
EIPA was particularly pleased that the line in the resolution that “No EU funding can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organisations or activities that incite these acts” was included in the text.
It marks a positive and significant step forward in efforts to make the PA leadership accountable for hate speech and incitement in the future (again our more regular readers will know that achieving conditionality represents a fundamental plank of EIPA’s strategy) For us conditioning EU aid on a rejection of violence would be in perfect alignment with the EP’s “call for effective use of existing European Union leverage and instruments towards both parties in order to facilitate peace efforts”.
Well, well, a reasonably positive EU resolution on Israel. Wonder that Messrs. Simon and Garfunkel would have made of it?
You can find the EP resolution HERE
Why the European Parliament, and other EU institutions, need to take a strong position on the movement calling for a boycott of the State of Israel.
Brussels took upon itself the Snakes and Ladders task of building a common European position on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by pushing in the last five years for a hands-on approach designed to ensure a return on the European political and economic investment in the region.
This policy of “differentiation,” in Brussels jargon, reflects the European Union’s self-professed determination “to take any action to preserve the two-state solution on the ground” by making a distinction in its bilateral agreements with Israel between Green Line Israel and Palestinian territories. So far, the policy has yielded two sets of EU Guidelines, on Israeli participation to Horizon 2020 in July 2013 and on indication of origin of products, respectively EU labeling of settlement products, in November 2015.
Doves in Israel, and around the world, anticipated that the EU’s new policy would expose the allegedly pro-Palestinian grassroots movement for what it is, an umbrella of organizations and individuals that deliberately question the legitimacy of the State of Israel and that represent a hotbed for anti-Semitism.
There was hope that once there was a clear EU policy distinction between the State of Israel and its settlements in the territories, the voices calling for a boycott of Israel would change their tune and start lobbying Brussels to instead begin exerting its economic leverage to foster a vibrant Palestinian civil society and an accountable Palestinian political leadership.
Instead, the EU’s policy is becoming the thin end of the wedge that BDS activists use to access EU institutions, employing Trojan horse tactics that seek nothing less than a complete severance of economic, cultural, scientific ties with Israel.
High Representative Federica Mogherini has repeatedly reassured Prime Minister Netanyahu of “the EU’s opposition of boycotts against Israel”. And in all other bilateral forums, committees and subcommittees with Israel, EU officials are all singing from the same sheet: The policy of differentiation does not constitute a boycott of the State of Israel, but merely an implementation of existing EU legislation.
I could question the good will and intention of the EU diplomats, who selectively isolate one of the core issues of the conflict, as if it exists in a vacuum, or the zealous use of “existing EU legislation” for a still in progress European foreign policy. It is not the purpose of this piece, however.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that the line between diplomatic pressure put on the government of Israel on the issue of settlements and a fully-fledged boycott of the Israel is getting more and more blurred as BDS activists are offered shelter under the EU’s freedom of speech. Europe cannot afford itself to go down that path,regardless of the stalemate in the peace process.
BDS leader Omar Barghouti is frequently invited to address members of the European Parliament, the Delegation for relations for Palestine (DPAL), and other forums, and offered the public space to openly call for the boycott of Israeli products, academic exchanges and other types of sanctions.
His crude tactic of trying to “make the occupation unbearable” comes at the cost of demonizing and entire population and infringing on their civil liberties by seeking their isolation in trade, cultural exchanges, academic cooperation and security.
Mirroring the institutions’ impulse for “a continued, full and effective implementation of EU legislation,” one cannot but wonder why does EU shy away from substantiating its rejection of BDS. This position has been articulated on multiple occasions, including in MEP Martina Anderson’s answer on the question of the legitimacy of the BDS movement: “The EU rejects the BDS campaign attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”
Similarly, European Council President Donald Tusk, in his first visit to Israel in August 2015, ahead of the publication of EU guidelines on labelling, reassured Prime Minister Netanyahu that “we have to avoid words like boycott because for sure this is not the intention of Europe. No country in Europe wants to boycott Israel.”
Concrete action needs to be taken by Brussels. The EU’s guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities participation to Horizon 2020 from July 2013 did not dissuade BDS activists who are lobbying members of the European Parliament from continuing to question, three years later, the participation and allocation of funds to the Israel Ministry of Public Security through LAW-TRAIN, an EU-funded project on drug trafficking.
Similarly, another European legislator addressing the European Commission on its Patronage of WATEC Italy 2016, questions the participation in the fair of Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Furthermore, an entire political group finds it “balanced” to call for an end to all cooperation between Israel and the European Defence Agency, and to allow no funding to Israeli entities through Horizon 2020.
Unmistakably, Europe is going through a period of social disorder marked by disenchantment with mainstream politics, and one does not need further proof following Sunday’s results in the French presidential elections.
As such, for the sake of preventing further scapegoating tendencies and radicalization, I would like to make the following recommendations:
- Allocate resources and establish a task force within the European Commission that would monitor and investigate the impact of BDS on the European communities, possibly under Commissioner Vera Jurova (Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality);
- Issue a notice to all member states, asking them to monitor the activities of BDS supporters and take further legal action in line with the Council Framework decision from November 2008 that “racism and xenophobia are direct violations of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and rule of law” and to take measures to punish the following intentional conduct: Publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by race, color, religion descent or ethnic origin;
- Prevent EU taxpayers’ money to fund any entity that calls for the boycott of the State of Israel;
- Issue a notice on BDS supporters’ access to the EU institutions and a disclaimer for any organizations or entities that call for a boycott of Israel.
European political leadership, as well as EU policy makers, should indeed “take further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution.” They should not allow, under any circumstances, their policy to be misused and ultimately abused by BDS activists operating under the pretext of freedom of speech and association.
The above recommendations would ensure that the EU’s stated aim of getting a meaningful return on its investment would encounter many more ladders than snakes going forward.
This article was written by Teodora Coptil, a consultant specializing on the EU’s policy for MENA region and head of institutional relations at Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels-based NGO advocating for a strategic EU-Israel bilateral relation and accountability of EU aid going to the Palestinian Authority. it was also published on Ynet.
Under 2 percent of the European Parliament, along with 150 guests, attended the inaugural ceremony for the Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament intergroup in Brussels on Tuesday.
Thirteen-year-old Ayla Shapira, a resident of Samaria who she was injured at age 11 when terrorists threw a firebomb at the car she was travelling in, addressed the 15 MEPs and guests, sharing her personal story.
She explained that her family was attacked by a 16-year-old Palestinian who wanted to receive payments for his family while he was jailed for his attack. Shapira asked the parliamentarians to consider that fact when they believe themselves to be sending aid money to Palestinians for the purposes of peace.
The intergroup was established on the initiative of the foreign relations group of the Samaria Regional Council, the head of which, Yossi Dagan, was present and spoke at the ceremony.
West Bank representatives signed a joint declaration with the MEPs promising to cooperate to stop the funding of terrorism and reduce trade barriers facing Jewish pioneers in Judea and Samaria. During the event, the participants toasted with wine produced in the West Bank.
Three MEPs spoke at the event. The cofounder of the Group of Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament,Petr Mach spoke, as well as Fulvio Matruscielli, and Branislav Škripek. They all expressed their support for Israel.
In addition, Nati Rom, the founder of Lev HaOlam (a West Bank organization that helped to organize the event), spoke about the organization’s efforts to fight against BDS by distributing products from the West Bank around the world. He emphasized that “the forces driving terror are the same ones that call for boycotting Israel. Communities must work together against this discrimination of Jewish products and preserve the free market.”
The article was published on Ynet on the 28.03.2017 (in the link you can also find a video with her speech)
The European Union has invested €7.7 million in the Israeli-led project NanoPack, a new initiative to develop antimicrobial food packages for perishable foods, based on nanotechnology. These solutions could reduce the staggering 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year, which cause major economic loss and significant harm to the world’s natural resources.
In order to extend food’s shelf life, the team – led by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology – is using novel antimicrobial surfaces and natural materials.
“NanoPack will demonstrate a solution for extending food shelf life by using novel smart antimicrobial surfaces, applied in active food packaging products,” Dr. Ester Segal of the Technion said in a statement. “NanoPack will enhance food safety for consumers by significant growth inhibition of food-borne microbes, which in turn will prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and early spoilage.”
Applying the power of nanotechnology, the project will employ polymer composites based on natural Halloysite Nanotubes (HNTs) as reliable and safe carriers, capable of tailored release of bio-active payloads. Thanks to their size, HNTs are unable to migrate from the food packaging into the food.
Worldwide, a trillion plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Simon van Dam, Project Manager of NanoPack, tells NoCamels the team will also examine whether these new packages can be recycled.
Natural oils prevent disease
Maximizing safety, HNTs in the NanoPack food packaging slowly release tiny amounts of potent, natural and EU-approved essential oils into the packaging headspace. The oils exhibit both antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and can be tailored to inhibit growth of most food-borne microbes.
The active polymer films developed by NanoPack exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, without the use of nanomaterials such as silver particles, which have raised health concerns of toxicity and microbial resistance.
NanoPack intends to develop, scale up and run pilot lines in operational industrial environments to manufacture and validate antimicrobial polymer films that are commercially feasible and accepted by retailers and consumers alike.
According to Segal, the three-year project, involving 18 research teams from European countries, is excepted to “present better-performing, safer and smarter products that will position Europe as the leader in food nanotechnology and smart antimicrobial packaging while increasing competitiveness and growth.”
the article was published at NoCamels.com
ISRAEL. include. invest. involve
3 ‘i’s to counter the b.d. and s
Europe Israel Public Affairs, in partnership with the Israeli Mission to the European Union organizes in the European Parliament, Bruxelles its first public conference for pro-Israel activists across the 28 member states of the European Union, on 23rd of January 2017, 16:00-19:00.
Please join us in the European House for a debate on why inclusion, investment and involvement are better than boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means for further development of the EU-Israeli ties.
Come and share with us why you like Israel!
For allowing us to facilitate your access to the European Parliament, please fill in your details HERE:
Israel and the European Union senior officials held this week their 2nd counter-terrorism dialogue at the Israeli foreign ministry in Jerusalem. They discussed challenges in the field of counter-terrorism in Israel and Europe.
The Israeli delegation was led by the Head of Division for Strategic Affairs at the foreign ministry and the Head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the National Security Council.
The EU delegation was headed by Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Pedro Serrano and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove.
The delegations included representatives of different agencies that deal with counter-terrorism from a wide range of perspectives such as defense, legislation, intelligence and law enforcement.
Israel considers itself as a key player in efforts to stem a rising tide of Islamic terrorism.
During a recent visit to the Netherlands, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said : “Europe as a whole is undergoing changes. It faces very great challenges over the spread of radical Islamic terrorism.’’
He discussed Israel’s “central role” as the “most stable and most stabilizing element in the Middle East,” one that contributes greatly to preventing the spread of terrorism.’’
EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini will adress the European Parliament on Wednesday 6th of July. She will be presenting the European External Action Service’ Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy. The document , published in June 2016 underlined EU support for a two-state solution.
Then, she will outline the new initiatives adopted by the Quartet regarding the Middle East Peace Process.
The Quartet denounced the use of violence of the Palestinians, and the constant incitement against Israelis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly furious about the Quartet conclusions.
Follow HR Mogherini speech here at 15:00 on Wednesday in the following link :
Words are cheap these days. Everyone is a ‘star’, ‘breaking news’ can last all day, and ‘legend’ status is bandied about freely.
But what we woke up to this morning is truly unprecedented.
Britain has voted to leave the European union. And they may not be the last country to do so. They weren’t the first – that honour/calamitous decision depending on how you see the news this morning – goes to Greenland. They left what was then called the EEC in 1985.
But with all respect to Greenland, Britain is a much bigger fish, economically and politically. It was a major and important member of the European Union. There are questions this morning whether the UK can even survive when Scotland voted massively to stay in the EU. The Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned, prompting a period of uncertainty as to whom will take up the reins and negotiate the terms of departure.
These are the deep questions that the UK has to answer.
But we are a Pro-Israel advocacy group operating at the heart of the EU Institutions, and we are busy looking at the current lay of the political land and what it will all mean for the EU Israel relationship.
Our offices sit opposite the European Council and the European Commission. And some of us sat outside the office this morning taking it all in. Eurocrats walked past in groups, the most common words we picked up were “I don’t know’, ‘slap in the face’, most looked ashen faced with smartphones in hand reading the news. And to be honest we are not far behind. This truly is uncharted territory.
Let us be honest again, the UK- Israel relationship was a rollercoaster ride with as many highs as lows: From the British Mandate to good relations during the Suez Crisis. In the 60’s Britain was seen as pro-Arab. The 80’s were not much better, with Britain imposing an arms embargo on Israel during the 1982 Lebanon war. But since then, things were on the up again. Relations were strong, a majority of British parliamentarians are pro-Israel and only last year the British government began efforts to outlaw BDS activities in the UK.
So we have lost a good, solid and largely dependable pro-Israel voice in the European Institutions. We have lost not only a great number of MEPs who were our friends and allies, but also many more British staffers and policy wonks – those who actually prepare the briefing notes, do the research and advise their political and bureaucratic masters on lines and positions to take on Israel. So from that perspective it’s sad and you could allow yourself to worry.
But there are opportunities too. The emerging markets as we call them: Balkan States, the Visegrad group of countries, and not forgetting the Baltic States, will undoubtedly feel emboldened after Brexit. They will feel their voices have become louder in the Council and Parliament, they will also feel that that Britain’s unprecedented – there’s that word again – departure shows cracks in the old established power blocks, and that they can be the cement.
As these countries enjoy a by and large excellent relationship with Israel, their cement can only be good news for us, and we anticipate a deeper and more co-operative relationship with them at Permanent Representative and EU institutional level.
But the real question is can the EU, as presently constituted, even survive? This morning it feels like a game of Jenga. The UK have removed their brick from the tower, and the edifice looks shaky and could potentially collapse.
So we say goodbye to Britain in the EU playground with a heavy heart. But just like all playgrounds, there are always plenty of others to make friends and continue to play with. This is EIPA’s task in the months and years ahead.
Manuel Valls, in Israel to advance his country’s plan for Mideast summit, says he has ‘a genuine desire to help the situation’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Monday the French initiative for an multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, telling French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that direct negotiations were the only path forward toward a lasting agreement.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Jerusalem before a closed-door meeting with Valls, Netanyahu said a multilateral effort would replace bilateral talks and not bring about any agreement.
“Peace is not achieved in international UN-style conferences, nor through international diktats that come of meetings of countries around the world sitting to decide our fate,” Netanyahu said. “Peace is achieved through direct negotiations where the Palestinian Authority would face a historic choice: recognize a Jewish state side by side with a demilitarized Palestinian sate, or try to eliminate it.”
The meeting with Valls came as part a two-day trip to the region by the French premier that began Sunday, aimed at advancing his country’s plan for the summit in the face of opposition from Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister claimed Monday that the international conference was being used by the Palestinian leadership as a way to prevent direct talks with Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority does not see the French initiative as an inducer for negotiations, but as a way to avoid them,” he said.
Instead, Netanayhu said, he would be willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without international mediation. “Every difficult issue will be on the table,” he said.
Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.
According to the plan, another conference would then be held in the autumn, this time with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal would be to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Earlier Monday Valls met with President Reuven Rivlin, who, in his first public statements on the French initiative, also criticized the plan, saying “there are no shortcuts in the Middle East.”
Preempting Netanyahu’s comments, he said that Israel was weary of such international efforts as they absolved the Palestinians of responsibility to negotiate.
Valls told both Rivlin and Netanyahu that France had Israel’s best interests in mind.
“France has a genuine and real desire to help the situation between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said in his statements to both Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Before his meetings with senior Israeli officials, Valls visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he laid a wreath in memory of the six millions Jews killed during the Holocaust. He also went to the Givat Shaul ceremony in Jerusalem cemetery to visit the graves of four French citizens killed in the January 2015 attack on the Hypermarche Kosher supermarket in Paris, and whose bodies were bought for burial in Israel.
After meeting with Netanyhau Valls will travel to Ramallah for a series of talks with Palestinian Authority officals, including meeting with Abbas.
Valls’s visit comes at a time of political turbulence in Israel, with Netanyahu expected to soon finalize coalition negotiations with the Yisrael Beytenu party, led by hardliner Avigdor Liberman, who is detested by the Palestinians.
Liberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement, is expected to take on the key role of defense minister.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet that adding Liberman to the coalition would not negatively impact peace efforts.
“A broad government will continue to strive for a diplomatic process with the Palestinians and we will do so with the assistance of elements in the region. I personally deal with this a lot, in many places, and I intend to continue to do so,” he told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
To watch the meeting with PM Netanyahu klick HERE
The Article was published on The Times of Israel on 24 may 2016.
Europe’s media are rightly focussed on the despicable Islamist stabbing attack in Munich this morning that has left one dead and three injured.
So most Europeans will have undoubtedly missed that in Jerusalem, also this morning, two 80 year old women were stabbed in the back whilst out for a morning stroll by Palestinian assailants who fled the scene and went back to East Jerusalem.
Two 80 year old women. Probably grandmothers. About as much threat to anyone as a feather duster.
Shlomi Tedegi, a medic, described the scene of the attack: “In an area adjacent to the promenade we saw two approximately 80-year-old elderly women lying in the dirt. They were fully conscious and suffering from stab wounds, one in the extremities and her upper body and the second in her upper body.”
Meanwhile in Gaza, the Israeli defence forces keep uncovering fresh terror tunnels, and large amounts of chemicals used to propel rockets.
Starting tonight, Israel marks Yom HaZikaron, the remembrance day for all the soldiers who have fallen in defence of the country, from 1948, 1967, 1973, two Lebanon wars and all the attacks and skirmishes in between, as well as remembering the 23,447 Israeli citizens murdered to date by terrorists. It is rare to meet a single Israeli whose family circle or whose friends haven’t been touched someway by terrorism, or a loss of a loved one on active duty. This remembrance day is not harking back to a bygone age, it reflects every day reality and the price that Israel pays for simply existing. The numbers go up every year.
The number one overarching concern for Israeli citizens, wherever they are, is security. They want the freedom that most of us enjoy in Europe, despite the recent terror attacks: to live a life without concern that you may be stabbed, blown up on a bus, your house hit by a rocket or just randomly targeted to be shot whether you are a boy, girl, man, woman, pensioner, whatever.
Events in Munich, and the threat of Munich – and much worse besides – is the daily reality for Israeli citizens.
And sadly, shamefully, it is being massively overlooked by the EU. Who prefer to hold debates about settlements, and later today in Strasbourg about demolitions of illegal Palestinian buildings in Area C.
Tonight’s debate in the European Parliament, where EEAS Chief Federica Mogherini will speak too, is symptomatic of this myopia and, to be brutally honest, total lack of regard for Israeli security.
There is a simple and perhaps inconvenient truth that the EU must digest: The Palestinian population is currently completely unprepared for peace. They are fed from birth with a steady and unrelenting diatribe of hatred for Jews and Israelis. They are incited to stab, murder and maim. Most cannot even countenance the existence of the State of Israel. As one Israeli academic and thinker once noted “Even if we were to move all of Israel into a small apartment in Tel Aviv, it would be too much for them”.
Taking all of the above into consideration and in the absence of any concerted EU effort to tackle this ongoing and daily incitement, this raw and unbridled hatred that saw two stabbed 80 year olds lying in the dirt; we would respectfully ask any European citizen if they would want unchecked and illegal construction of homes by people who seek their and their family’s destruction within rocket reach of their own homes, cities, villages or hamlets?
We think the answer would be a resounding no.
So why must it be imposed on Israeli citizens? Something for all of us to think about as MEPs and Mrs Mogherini gather this evening to discuss demolitions of illegal buildings that they support through EU taxpayer funded programmes.
This Article was written by our executive director , Alex Benjamin and was published on The Times of Israel
The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Israel The EU Delegation to the State of Israel, together with all Embassies of EU Member States in Israel, joins people in Israel
commemorating today the deaths of six million Jews – innocent men, women and children, murdered simply for being Jewish. Remembering the Shoah means for us recalling our joint responsibility for the future, continuing to stand strong against antiSemitism, prejudice and racial discrimination in all their forms. It is our duty to fight against anti-Semitism on every front. We cannot and will not accept that Jewish communities in Europe do not feel safe. Attacks on Jews are attacks on all of us – against our way of living, against tolerance and against our identity. The European Union was built on the foundations of our values of democracy, human dignity and fundamental rights. We are determined to defend these values against hate, violence and fanaticism. Never forget. Never again.
The statement was published on 4 May 2016 on the EEAS website
An arch Eurosceptic might at first seem an odd choice for an Israeli advocacy organisation based in Brussels, where liaising directly with the European Institutions is our bread and butter, but few people are more friendly to Israel’s cause than Daniel Hannan.
In a recent TV debate with EIPA’s director, he stated his opposition to the EU, through deciding what territory Israel should and shouldn’t have, of predetermining final borders ahead of any negotiations.
And that’s not all: Mr Hannan came up with such a succinct summary of Israel and its detractors that we wish we had his eloquence.
“Israel’s story is by no means unblemished; but it is uplifting. It’s a story of how freedom can take root in even the most unpromising conditions. Such a story appeals to optimistic types, but repels the envious, the eternally aggrieved, the gloomsters who see free markets as some kind of racket — the same people, indeed, who tend also to be anti-British and anti-American, whether they be Left Bank intellectuals or Putinite nationalists or Bolivarian revolutionaries.”
Mazal Tov Daniel and thank you!
A lot has already been said about the Swedish government’s Middle East policy and I will not get dug down in my past criticism of it. After spending a couple of days in Israel together with colleagues from the European Parliament, I would like however to underline a clear observation; The Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström’s anti-Israeli statements have damaged the image of Sweden more than we so far have realized.
That the Israeli government´s representatives, parliamentarians and media began speaking about a flaring diplomatic crisis is one thing, but when the general public and ideological supporters of Wallström react in the same way it illustrates the seriousness of the situation. In fact, Sweden’s reputation has been destroyed as a result of Wallström´s actions and some of the foremost critics are her own Social Democratic Party friends in the Israeli Labour Party.
In the meetings and conversations that I participated in, both in the Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish government’s actions have been a recurring topic. This was clearly expressed in Knesset’s Vice President, Social Democrat Nachman Shai, who explained that Margot Wallström not only has hurt her own image, but also Israel´s:
”What we are talking about is a terrible mistake. Tell her that we are hoping for a quick generation shift in Swedish Social democracy.”
Alongside this debacle, Israeli domestic politics are dominated by the country’s security situation. A special focus is of course on the Palestinian attacks against innocent civilians, attacks who are currently spreading terror among the population. Since the wave of terror began last year, over a hundred attacks have been conducted in which around thirty people have been killed and hundreds injured.
The functions of fundamental social institutions is being challenged and people’s daily lives have been limited. What previously was easy suddenly became impossible. At the same time, I was impressed by how well the society seems to work, how people’s concerns are taken care of and how quickly the necessary political decisions and measures have been taken. The handling of national crises in Israel is part of normality.
The security challenge is constantly present, and it also applies to the neighbouring countries, regionally and globally. Israel is surrounded by more or less hard line, hostile dictatorships ruling over their 450 million inhabitants. In addition a number of militant terrorist organizations are currently operating in Israel’s immediate vicinity; Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Sinai. All sharing the expressed purpose to destroy Israel.
This is relevant and important to recall in a political context where Israel is often portrayed as the stronger and militarily superior party. This is of course correct in relation to the Palestinians but in a broader perspective the country is in a vulnerable position facing the surrounding dictatorships and terror organizations.
After days of political discussions, meetings and field trips, I can conclude not only that the outside world´s perceptions of Israel’s security situation is at odds with reality. In the Swedish and European context it is almost only the occupation and the settlements that are discussed, which makes the picture incomplete. Other major events and phenomena are neglected or silenced.
People interested in foreign policy and media consumers seldom get to see the true Israel. A country with successful enterprises, entrepreneurship, research and education with empathetic and involved citizens.
Let me mention some of these citizens – people who daily are involved in shaping the Israeli society. Recently I met them in their different situations and places:
Salman Zarka, doctor at the Ziv hospital in Safed near the border with Lebanon and Syria. For years he has been responsible for projects treating victims of the civil war in Syria. Often the patients are people who were rescued by Israeli army patrols in the border areas.
When I met Salman Zarka he explained that the main focus is treating seriously injured and traumatized patients – both soldiers and civilians. So far, he and his team have been able to save the lives of 580 severely injured people out of the total of 3000 war wounded Syrians who so far have received care in Israeli hospitals.
”Most of them have learned at an early stage to see Israel as the worst enemy. But as a doctor and human being, it is my job to save lives, regardless of nationality”.
Gad Moshe Yarkony, Mayor in Eshkol in southern Israel. Born and raised on the Kibbutz Nirim, just a few kilometres from the border with Gaza, Yarkony lived for many years under attacks from Palestinian terrorist groups. In the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas he served in the Israeli army when a Palestinian rocket attack changed his life. Two of his closest friends were killed in the attack that also wounded himself. Hit by shrapnel both his legs are today amputated.
”The attack took place on the last day of the war. But I made a decision; to survive and work for peace with the Palestinians. From my hospital bed, I announced my candidacy for mayor.”
Yehuda Cohen, head of the Lipski company in Ariel in the West Bank. For several years Lipski is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic products in the region. The company is profitable, sales are steadily increasing and 20 per cent of what is produced is exported to Europe.
Half of Lipskis over a hundred employees are Israelis, half of them Palestinians. Yehuda Cohen said that staff turnover is low, and wages and employment conditions are the same for Palestinians and Israelis.
”For me, this job is a peace project. The owner of the company is considering moving the production because of the uncertainty regarding the EU’s decision on labelling of goods from the occupied territories. If so, I will not follow, since I want to continue working for coexistence with the Palestinians.”
Israel, like all countries is neither perfect nor flawless. But in all its simplicity, the meetings with Salman Zarka, Gad Moshe Yarkony and Yehuda Cohen, however complete the widely recognized and unfortunately one sided negative picture of the Middle East’s only democracy.
It’s time for that picture to change.
(This is an English translation of the blog post in Swedish ”Det verkliga Israel” published on this blog on February 13th 2016)
you can also find it here
After a difficult end to 2015 in the EU-Israel relationship due to the labelling guidelines, EIPA kicked off 2016 with a hugely successful standing room only event in the European Parliament entitled “Safeguarding the Peace Process: can the EU be an honest broker?”
Hosted by European Parliament Vice-President Pascu and Lars Adaktusson MEP, the cross party event heard from distinguished Israeli and EU speakers on the subject of Palestinian incitement, conditioning EU aid on a rejection of Incitement to violence and lastly on the EU’s role in the Peace Process.
The decision to label settlement goods causes friction within the bloc and strains ties with a staunch ally.
Israel’s U.S. ambassador sent gift boxes for the 2015 holiday season containing wine, olive oil, body cream, and halva — and a defiant note calling out the European Union.
The products came from what the international community considers to be occupied territories, and Ambassador Ron Dermer was determined to make a blunt point about the EU’s recent move to instruct member countries on how to label goods produced in areas outside Israel’s 1967 borders.
“The Jewish state is singled out and held to a different standard than other countries,” Dermer wrote. “Of the over 200 unresolved territorial disputes around the world, Europe decided that only these Jewish-made products deserved to be labeled.”
“In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights,” he added.
Dermer’s reaction reflected the anger that many in Israel felt after the EU announced that the wording such as “product of West Bank (Israeli settlement)” should be displayed on cosmetics and food products, similar to the guidelines already in place inBelgium, the U.K and Denmark.
More than one month after the guidelines were issued, the fallout continues. The decision has dogged European officials, caused friction within the European Union and strained the bloc’s ties with Israel.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini faced combined pressure, built up over several years, from the European Parliament and EU countries critical of Israel’s settlement activity to act. But now, as she tries to reassert her role as a trusted broker in the Middle East peace process, the labeling decision has made her task difficult.
“For Mogherini it’s never been the right time,” said Hugh Lovatt, the Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “She ran out of runway and had to issue it before the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on November 16, because member states said ‘we don’t want to have to bring this up again.’”
In the immediate aftermath, Israeli canceled some meetings, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The labeling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories; Europe should be ashamed of itself.”
Then, at the end of November, Israel announced that it was suspending diplomatic contact with EU officials involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians.
“There have been a lot of gesticulations from the Israelis,” said one European diplomat, adding that particular ire had been directed at France, Belgium, Malta, Ireland and Sweden — countries traditionally seen as being more likely to criticize Israel.
But the diplomat said the EU is talking to Israel as before, pointing out that Fernando Gentilini, the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, did not raise the issue on his recent visit to Israel.
The Israeli reaction “is an intimidation technique that the Israelis have tried and tested many times,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “For us, there’s no fundamental questioning of our relationship with Israel.”
Hostage to politics
Mogherini had a model for how not to proceed, in the previous attempt, by her predecessor, Catherine Ashton.
“It was handled badly,” a source close to this year’s deliberations said of the labeling guidelines proposed in 2013. “The Americans never heard about the proposal [before it was issued] and neither did the Israelis.”
Ashton’s push came at a time when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to revitalize the peace process. Israel complained and at Kerry’s request the EU shelved the proposal, which was hardly heard from again during the rest of Ashton’s tenure.
This time around, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians were informed before the guidelines were released. “The work of quiet diplomacy,” the source said.
Another element of the strategy employed by Mogherini’s team was to attempt to use both political and technical arguments. Unlike the Ashton move, which was handled exclusively through the European External Action Service, this time more prominence was given to the role played by the Commission’s trade directorate.
“The EEAS chose to put communication on this matter in the hands of DG Trade, and say it was purely technical,” an EU official said. “As a way to unload the burden.”
In issuing the guidelines, an EU official argued the Commission was merely responding to member states’ request for “full and efficient implementation of existing legislation when it comes to the [Israeli] settlements.”
“This notice does not create any new legislative rules,” a Commission spokesperson said. “While it reflects the Commission’s understanding of the relevant EU legislation, enforcement remains the primary responsibility of member states.”
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskisreiterated that the labeling instructions were just “a technical issue, not a political stance.”
The problem, according to Lovatt, was that by delaying publication out of fear of stoking tensions in the region, “Ashton and then Mogherini held the labeling guidelines hostage to political considerations — so they’ve lost the legal, technical argument which they’ve had in previous situations.”
He compared the labeling fuss to the way Brussels brought in its rules for financing going to entities located beyond Israel’s 1967 borders.
“There was no attempt to intervene politically to delay the EU’s funding guidlines in July 2013,” Lovatt said. “In that case the EU stuck to its guns without having to sacrifice political capital.”
Instead, on labeling, “it has taken three years and two ministerial letters to write three pages,” one exasperated diplomat pointed out. “We organized the Crimea sanctions against Russia in three weeks! It’s unfortunate, if this had gone ahead three years ago we would have avoided the hysterics.”
This article was written by Vince Chadwick and Maia De La Baume and was published on the Politico website on 04/01/2016
Last night Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to suspend contacts with EU representatives regarding the political process/peace process with the Palestinians.
Mr Netanyahu has ordered contacts to be frozen until “a reassessment process is completed”.
The MFA indicated in a statement that Israel was withdrawing from several bilateral forums dealing with the Palestinian issue.
“We have suspended the subcommittee on diplomacy, the subcommittee on human rights and international organizations,” the ministry said. “The remaining dialogues [with the EU] are continuing as planned
The move is a response to the recent decision by the EU to label settlement products from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Earlier this month the Prime Minister said: “The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labelling the side that is being attacked by terrorism.” He then went on to add: “The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this.”
It should be stated that whilst Israel is suspending cooperation and work with the European Union itself on the peace process, it will continue diplomatic cooperation with individual member states such as Germany, Britain and France.
In addition to the suspension of contacts with the EU, and as part of its fight against the EU decision, Israel has decided to take measures against 16 European countries: the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Croatia, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium and Finland.
The measures include summoning the ambassadors of the 16 countries to the Foreign Ministry for an official rebuke; and restricting meetings between ambassadors and senior Israeli officials to low-level government staffers.
Here at EIPA we view this as a worrying move at a time when EU-Israel co-operation in fighting the terror and threat of terror should be at its peak.
As firm believers that the EU and Israel have much to share and co-operate on, we urge both sides to be restrained in their language and to rebuild the important political and diplomatic ties that both share.
We will of course keep you up to date on latest developments and to clarify the situation going forward. In the meantime we again urge cool heads to prevail, so that this situation can be seen as a diplomatic storm in a teacup that can and will be overcome as quickly as possible.
It’s an odd sensation when friends in Israel are calling you up or sending you messages to stay safe. In Brussels.
The lockdown here – that has only been lifted this morning after the terror alert was downgraded – was the first real taste for many in the European capital of what the threat from Islamist terrorist looks and feels like. It was something so alien and so uncomfortable that many had no clue what to do.
Watching all this on the evening news from their living rooms in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, many an Israeli would be forgiven for allowing themselves a wry smile and a “welcome to our world” remark. Let us not forget that ordinary Israelis are still facing a wave of stabbings and car rammings that continue to kill, maim and injure. This week saw 2 more dead and 11 wounded, including a 12 year girl that was stabbed.
Instead, Israel, despite the recent raw deal it got from the EU on labelling, and despite an overarching feeling that Europe doesn’t really care, was magnanimous and generous in its response to the terror attacks in Paris and the dark shadow of a real threat to life in Brussels.
Quietly, surely and delicately Israel has been sharing its expertise in dealing with terror with its counterparts in Europe. Last week many Israeli anti-terror experts were in Brussels, all below the publicity radar, offering briefings, solutions and best practice.
The highest profile of these visits this week came from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who held a number of private meetings with Belgian security officials.
The purpose of the trip was to establish unprecedented security ties involving Belgium and Israel. During his one-day trip to Europe, the IDF chief of staff also held meetings with high ranking military officials from the United States. Earlier this week, it was also revealed that Germany had received from Israeli intel services
key intelligence regarding an imminent terror attack against a packed soccer stadium.
This led lead German authorities to cancel a scheduled friendly soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands at Hanover Stadium on November 17.
It is a sad state of affairs that terror has brought its blood soaked hands to Europe. To many experts it wasn’t a case of if but when. Well, there can be no doubt that it is here now, and European capitals, particularly Paris and Brussels are left undeniably altered and shaken.
It’s a tough lesson for Europe to learn, where old certainties and comfortable clichés such as “why can’t we all just get along?” no longer apply.
This harsh new reality does however offer an unprecedented opportunity for rapprochement between the EU and Israel after a testy few months.
We do, after all, now share a very simple and stark reality: That there are those who seek our destruction, by any means necessary. That there are those who abhor democracy, freedom of speech and the liberties that we take for granted.
I sincerely hope that the tragic episodes in Paris and Brussels will wake Europe from a slumber that somehow separates and compartmentalises the Israel-Palestinian conflict into something “other”, something that is unique.
It is anything but. Settlements and the temple mount are simply the latest smokescreen in a long running attack on the only democracy in the middle east. This is instead a sadly on-going struggle against fundamentalism that sees no place, no future and no role for any non-arab in the region, just as it views any non-adherent to this brutal and murderous narrative as the enemy.
Israel has shown this week that it can swallow its bruised pride on EU labelling, rise above it and take a decisive and leading role in showing EU states how to deal with and fight terror. It is showing people how you can live and prosper, in spite of terrorism.
Brussels is renowned as a foggy place. But its is starting to feel like people are now slowly beginning to see what is at stake.
The Op-Ed was written by Alex Benjamin, EIPA executive director and was published in The Times of Israel
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called on the global body to denounce terrorism instead of legitimizing Palestinian terrorism.
The call came as the UN commemorated “Palestinian Solidarity Day” and passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions.
“Over the years, this assembly has passed countless one-sided resolutions blaming Israel for any and all problems confronting the Palestinians,” Danon said in a speech to the General Assembly.
“It is unfortunate that the seventieth session has joined the pitiful UN tradition of passing more than twenty empty anti-Israel resolutions, which deepen the conflict, distance us from real dialogue, and diminish the prospects of peace,” he continued.
Danon noted that in 1947, the UN adopted a resolution to partition the British Mandate into a Jewish state, and an Arab state but the Palestinians refused to accept it, and instead have launched “violent waves of terror every time they had the opportunity for statehood”.
“If the Palestinian leaders really want peace, why do they refuse to sit in the same room with the Israeli Prime Minister? To sit down and to negotiate?” said Danon.
“If the Palestinian leaders truly want a home for the Palestinian people, why do they reject the very idea of a home for the Jewish people?
“If the Palestinian leaders are concerned for the protection of their own people, why do they encourage and incite them to terror and violence?” said Danon, who stressed, “No amount of biased resolutions and empty symbols will bring the change that the people of the region so desperately need.”
“You can raise a Palestinian flag here in the UN, but as long as the Palestinians fail to raise a generation committed to peace and reconciliation, there will be no end to violence,” he stated.
Danon held up a picture of the recent victims of terrorism in Israel and said, “This is a shameful day for the UN.”
“Instead of issuing a clear and categorical statement denouncing all acts of terror, this institution has granted legitimacy to Palestinian terror,” he continued.
The heinous murder of a twenty innocent Israelis, just because they are Israelis, is no different than the cruel massacre of innocents in France. Terror is terror is terror, and it must be fought against, not justified,” stressed Danon.
If the UN wants to play a constructive role, it must get a grip on reality, and hold the Palestinians accountable. Demand that the Palestinians leaders cease their incitement to violence,” he said.
“Insist that President Abbas finally, finally respond to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated calls to negotiate. And make it clear that peace will only come once the Palestinians accept that Israel is the home of the Jewish people.”
this article was post on 24 November 2015 on Arutz Sheva website
As you will be aware, and after much fanfare, the EU published its guidelines on labelling of products in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Here at EIPA we think that in the midst of a continuing wave of indiscriminate terror attacks against Israel’s civilian population, the decision to publish these guidelines makes zero political sense from a set of EU institutions that want to be seen as an honest broker in the Peace Process.
The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief can try and dress this move up as consumer protection, a technical trade detail or as a non-binding set of guidelines, but to the vast majority of Israelis it will be viewed very simply: as a slap in the face and an overt political move to punish Israel.
What is worse is that EU labelling of settlement products gives credence to the Mahmoud Abbas narrative that the stabbing attacks and car-rammings are somehow linked to settlements.
This lack of balance and a feeling of Israel getting the stick while the Palestinian authority gets the carrot has already had grave consequences for the EU- Israel relationship. This relationship is very important and we at EIPA are concerned at the needless deterioration of it.
As we write, Israel and the EU are engaged in a game of tit for tat. In retaliation at the publication of the EU guidelines – which in short will see an EU refusal to recognise products from the West Bank and the Golan Heights as “product of Israel”, instead they must say “product of West bank (Israeli settlement)” – Israel has done the following.
- President Rivlin has cancelled his planned visit to the EU in Brussels on December
- The EU envoy to Israel was summoned to the MFA and was reprimanded
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has suspended dialogue with the EU on a number of fronts
- Deputy Foreign Minister Hotoveli said the MFA will suspend all peace negotiations with the EU
- Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked said she will examine taking legal steps against the EU
- Minister Uri Ariel has returned his European made Citroen and is now driving a Japanese car
The question has to be asked: Was a move on labelling even necessary? What ends does it serve from an EU perspective other than souring the political milk with one side in the peace process?
EIPA will be working hard to convince the various Foreign ministries around Europe that this move should absolutely not be implemented if European capitals want to enjoy a balanced and harmonious relationship with the state of Israel.
The actions of the EU are an ample example of how not to behave diplomatically and politically. This damage will take time and effort to repair. EIPA are committed to facilitate this much needed rapprochement in the weeks ahead.
To read the Guidelines click here
Mahmoud Abbas is such a master of stretching the elasticity of the truth, such a perverter of language, that in ordinary circumstances you couldn’t help but admire his downright deluded chutzpah. This week he reminded us here at Europe Israel Public Affairs of Comical Ali, the information minister during the Iraq War, with his lies and deluded pronouncements.
But this is not something that we can laugh at. He is the Leader of Israel’s supposed partner in peace. He is supposed to represent Palestinian interests. In short he is supposed to be a statesman.
Instead, he continues to incite violence and terror, firstly by feeding Palestinian paranoia about Israel’s desire to change the status of the Temple Mount (something that is patently and unequivocally untrue, as Israel has repeatedly stated), secondly by lying about Israel murdering a teenager (said teenager is in fact being treated well in an Israeli hospital despite his attempt to murder in a stabbing attack), thirdly by his downright refusal to accept responsibility for starting the fire of violence and terror, and lastly, and perhaps most sinisterly, his continuing and frankly shameful refusal to condemn the attacks and call on them to end.
People on both sides are dying because of it.
This week we were also treated to another word bending extravaganza worthy of the world finest linguistic contortionist. These acts against innocent Israelis (including the stabbing of a 70 year grandmother at a bus stop) are deemed as “popular resistance”.
Now, when most people think of “popular resistance” they think of a strike, a picket line, a demonstration, or something like social protests. For Mahmoud Abbas scores of teenagers roaming the streets, shops, bus stops, trams, synagogues, restaurants, bars, schools, wherever to stab Jews (any Jew will do) is not attempted or wilful murder. Its not terrorism. Its popular resistance.
A Palestinian man ran into a group of orthodox Jews at a tram stop this week, got out and used a hatchet to hack at the injured. In this distorted Palestinian world, the assailant told his attorney (remember that Israel affords the basic human right to legal representation despite the lack of respect of human right shown by those committing such abhorrent crimes), that this was in fact…wait for it…A car accident. He had clearly learned a trick or two from his master in Ramallah.
What are European Leaders saying about this? They are urging both sides to restrain. Both sides. Is the lunacy of Abbas’s language so contagious that it has spread to the EU Institutions? Has political correctness got so bad and so twisted that the attempted murderer and the 70 year old are treated the same? As if she prompted the attack? Mr Abbas must be laughing to himself at such a false premise.
13 MEPs, all friends or members of EIPAs’ political advisory board, wrote last week to EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, urging them to send a strong and unambiguous message to Mahmoud Abbas that incitement to hatred and silence in the face of murder would not be tolerated by the Brussels institutions.
As of today, still nothing. Not even a courteous acknowledgement of the letter by democratically elected parliamentarians from across the political divide and across the continent. Mr Schulz delivered his state of the Union speech to the European Summit yesterday here in Brussels and didn’t even mention events in Jerusalem.
Despite all of this, despite a bewildered, afraid and traumatised Israeli public, may of whom are calling for a tough response, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again, and only yesterday, extended his invitation for peace talks with Mr Abbas, at a place of his choosing and without pre-conditions.
Like him or loathe him. Mr Netanyahu is showing statesmanship and solid political leadership.
One doesn’t expect any reciprocity from the Palestinian leader.
But one certainly does from Brussels. The fact that a strong statement is not forthcoming from the EU’s leadership, that outright murder is couched and downgraded through political language and that the aggressor is treated in equal terms as the victim, is indeed worthy of the late comical Ali.
Except nobody in Israel, nor indeed the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Europe, are laughing.
Instead they feel nauseous. It feels to them like Israeli and Jewish lives don’t matter.
And Europe, right now, is doing nothing to prove that this is not, in fact, the case.
Alex Benjamin is the director of EIPA
Today Members of the European Parliament and EIPA’s Advisory Board took part in a special breakfast briefing with H.E. Ambassador of Israel to the European Union, David Walzer on the recent wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians. The MEPs discussed other pressing issues for the EU-Israel relationship such as the security implications of the ISIS presence in Iraq and Syria and the new dynamics in the region as a whole.
Tomorrow, Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a report considering the policy of EU, concerning the situation in the Middle East.
My party group have together with the other big party groups negotiated a common report, which in many parts is well balanced. Some essential parts are still missing: Clearer condemnations of Hamas regime of terror, the absence of democracy and freedom at the PLO-controlled West bank, as well as the responsibility of the surrounding Arab dictatorships concerning their support to terrorism and making today´s situation with refugees permanent, as well as the fact that Palestinian refugees are denied citizenship and human rights in the Arab counties.
The role of EU in the Middle East has been unclear and indecisive for a long time. One reson for this is that the Israelis in many aspects lack confidence for the EU. This is fully understandable, since the hostility against Israel and anti-Semitism has grown continuously stronger in Europe during the last past years. From the European parliament and from the member states of the EU, unbalanced and biased statements about Israel are often delivered. The understanding for the exposed situation of the country, as well as its legit right to safety, is sorely missing. During the last year left wing parties in several European parliaments have demanded the acknowledgement of a Palestinian State, without any requirements at all concerning human rights and democracy.
Many with me hope that EU in the long run will be able to play a constructive role in a new peace- process between Israelis and Palestinians. For this to be possible, though, a realistic policy based on clear condemnation of all forms of terrorism and an acknowledgement that the goal is two democratic states, for two people, living side by side within safe boarders, is required.
Below my speech in the plenary:
This debate is intended to give space for an exchange of views on how the EU can contribute to a renewed peace process in the Middle East.
Let me address those blaming Israel for the non-existent negotiation talks – those trying to pave the way for an EU boycott of Israeli products – those naming Israel an apartheid state. By doing this, you are not contributing to a constructive EU-role in the current situation.
A trustful relationship is based upon mutual confidence – a one sided EU position will not facilitate a peace dialog between Israelis and Palestinians.
Let me say that today´s joint resolution has a fairly balanced approach. Despite this, I fear that the preconceptions we have seen over the years, seriously has damaged the credibility of the EU.
Israelis of course take notice of the spread of anti-Israeli sentiments – as well as anti-semitism in Europe.
Mr President, this needs to be confronted.
And let´s be clear:
The only liberal democracy in the Middle East will never be a bigger problem than the evil dictatorships and terrorist groups in the surrounding region.
The text was published on MEP Lars Adaktusson blog on September 9th 2015
Have you ever lost touch with a friend that you used to get on with? You aim to stay in touch but then after a while it doesn’t happen. The time of absence becomes embarrassingly long and instead of trying to rekindle things, it’s easier to let things slide. One side feels bitter at the spurn while the other is oblivious and just carries on with their life.
That’s what the EU-Israel relationship feels like just now.
The last Israeli Prime Minister to visit the capital of the EU institutions was Yitzak Rabin. That was 20 years ago. By any definition that’s one hell of a gap between visits.
And the EU isn’t best pleased.
I’m in Israel often, and on flights there I’m invariably sat beside someone who over the meal or drink inquires as to my visit. I tell them I am a director of a public affairs and press organisation that seeks to bring the EU and Israel closer together.
The answer is 99.9% the same and a variation of this: “Kol Hakavod, but you are wasting your time, Europe doesn’t understand us and we have given up on it, but hey thanks for trying.”
Whether we like it or not, the EU’s influence on world affairs is growing. The heads of the Institutions have simply invested too much in the EU’s foreign policy arm – the European External Action Service (EEAS) – and in the appointment of a dedicated High Represenative in Mrs Mogherini, not to say opening EEAS offices around the globe, to not elbow their way onto negotiating tables in areas of conflict around the globe.
And in the European Parliament, pro-European parties who make up a majority of MEPs are 100% behind the initiative. Like some banks were in the financial crisis, the EEAS is the political definition of too big to fail.
Let us be honest, the EEAS has not exactly covered itself in glory when it comes to the Middle East since it’s creation. It’s influencein Egypt, Syria, Libya and latterly Iran has been benign at best, or a downright failure at worst.
The service and the many parliamentarians who support it need a success story. And their collective eyes have settled on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
And they will use any means at their disposal to get Israel’s attention.
We anticipate a European Parliament statement on the Middle East peace process very shortly. The texts are being drafted as I write and my organisation and others in Brussels, are meeting MEPs to see what we can do to soothe the situation and get a decent outcome.
In the absence of a proper high-level dialogue between Israel and the EU, we will most likely see a strong and ill-tempered resolution that will call for an end to settlement construction.
With this will come some graduated sanctions, where the labelling of settlement products is a distinct likelihood.
All of this is borne out of frustration. Frustration at being ignored and frustration that the Prime Minister would rather spend his time in Milan, London, Paris or Berlin without even contemplating a courtesy call to Brussels.
Which brings me back to friendship. Of course I get where Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming from.
It’s always easier to go see old established friends where you are guaranteed a warm welcome like the US Congress and Senate, or make new friends who don’t ask you any awkward questions like China or India.
But Israel has many, many friends in the EU. We meet with them everyday.
They care passionately about the country, and only want the best for its people. We meet parliamentarians, senior staffers and civil servants who all want to help. Bar none they are all fed up with hearing a lop-sided narrative, and who eagerly want to make a difference. Above all they just want to understand, to be briefed and feel that their efforts are reciprocated.
That is why it’s a diplomatic and strategic mistake to try and bypass the EU.
It takes two to tango, and right now the EU feels like a scorned lady on the diplomatic dancefloor.
As we approach the New Year, we look at our relationships and friendships and we seek to make amends.
It’s time the Prime Minister had a proper look at his with the EU.
The article was written by EIPA executive director, Alex Benjamin and was published on Ynetnews on September the 5th, 2015.
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
Netanyahu’s fourth government will face challenges coming from all sides: existential threats from enemies, difficult relations with friends and internal problems.
With the election behind us, and with the lengthy coalition negotiations advancing slowly, it is time to take a look at the serious challenges that the Israeli government will be faced with in the next few years.
• Foreign policy:
The Iranian nuclear deal
There is no doubt that the new deal recently signed by Iran and the world powers will be the central foreign policy concern for the next government. Simply put, this horrific deal is an existential threat to Israel.
Firstly, because it allows the removal of sanctions on Iran, letting Iran regain enough economic stability and strength to start over where it left off and reach its nuclear ambitions.
Worse than that: this new reality will bring the whole region to a nuclear arms race, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf states developing their own nuclear capabilities out of a sense of self-preservation. Nuclear weapons in a region defined by constant instability are a recipe for disaster.
It will only be a question of time until one of those nuclear powers becomes overtaken by Islamist groups. Just imagine what Islamic State could do with a nuclear bomb.
During the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was strongly criticized for speaking to Congress about his opposition to US President Barack Obama’s attempts to reach such a deal. Today, Congress is the only thing stopping this nuclear deal from being confirmed, and Netanyahu’s foresight deserves recognition.
The new government’s most important foreign policy mission will be to use all the influence that Israel has on Congress to make sure the deal is rejected by it. This is the final battle that Israel can fight to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program through renewed sanctions before being left with only the military option.
Israel’s relations with the United States
The subject of Iran has caused serious harm to an already problematic relationship between Netanyahu and Obama. Up until today, it seemed clear that the disagreements between the world leaders did not affect the historic alliance between both countries.
However, the new low that their relationship has reached makes this question relevant once again.
One of the central strategic tenets of Israeli foreign policy has always been to have a strong alliance with a leading world power. With the establishment of the State of Israel, France served as that world power as Israel’s interests were aligned with France’s interests when confronting Arab nationalist fervor sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, including France’s prized colony, Algeria. France became Israel’s main weapons provider.
However, in the run-up to the Six Day War in 1967, France embargoed all offensive weapons deliveries to Israel. France also refused to deliver 50 aircraft already paid for in full. Israel needed to find a new ally, and it found it in America because of growing Soviet influence in the Arab world.
Ever since the Six Day War, the alliance between the two countries has been rock solid. This alliance was not just based on common interests in the middle of the Cold War, but also on a strong sense of shared values. To some presidents and other American leaders, this alliance also includes strong theological foundations.
Today, Obama is endangering Israel with some unprecedented threats. He cut off arms supply to Israel during the war in Gaza last summer, echoing the French arms embargo that led to the deterioration of that alliance. He is now threatening to remove the automatic US veto on UN Security Council resolutions.
In all likelihood, this is a personal issue between Obama and Netanyahu, and the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will know how to renew the strong alliance that preceded Obama.
However, if the Israeli government will be faced with another president who is less than friendly with Israel, it will have to reevaluate its dependence on its alliance with the United States, seeking another world power to take the strategic place of Israel, or look to spread its bids by building strong alliances with a variety of countries, including some in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Israel’s relations with Europe
Israel’s relations with Europe are inherently different from its relations with America. The challenges facing this relationship are also very different.
The relationship between Europe and Israel has always been complex. It must be said that every country in Europe has different interests and every European leader has a different approach to Israel. However, the general rule can be that Europe’s relations with Israel are far more based on mutual economic interests than on military alliances or a sense of shared values, even if these things also exist.
Europe is Israel’s leading trade partner. As such, the main threat to this relationship is the strengthening and growth of the boycott movement.
Israel has managed to contain this threat through effective diplomacy, which caused most world leaders, including all leading European leaders, to publicly denounce attempts to boycott Israel. However, some battles were lost, with some European countries demanding that products coming from Judea and Samaria be marked stating their specific origin.
Israel needs to keep taking this threat seriously. It is a containable threat, but it is a serious threat nonetheless, and if it is not taken seriously it can cause serious damage to the Israeli economy.
• Economic policy:
Price of housing
One of the main issues raised in the campaign was the price of housing – housing prices in Israel have risen at an astonishing rate for the past eight years.
Today, all political parties have committed to solving this problem.
Two immediate steps that need to be taken to solve this crisis are as follows: First of all, the monopoly the state holds on land ownership needs to be slowly dismantled, through the privatization of land ownership.
This needs to be done slowly and effectively so as not to disrupt the market and to ensure the state monopoly is not replaced by a private-owned monopoly, but it needs to be done.
Secondly, the bureaucracy related to building houses is untenable. Today, in order to get a permit to build a house, one must wait around three years, but some analysts claim this can be cut down to less than three months.
There are several more reasons for the dramatic rise in housing prices, but one thing is clear: whatever the composition of the government, if it does not succeed in lowering housing prices, the electorate will hold it responsible for this.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Israel has also risen dramatically in the last few years. This is highlighted by the fact that products made in Israel cost less in Europe than in Israel.
The reason for the high cost of living is simple: Israel is a very small market with very little competition and trade barriers make it almost impossible for international competition to affect the local markets.
Naftali Bennett as economy minister started removing trade barriers to increase competition. However, there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
This is an almost Sisyphean task that requires the review of all trade barriers and local regulations that affect competition.
A government that will deal with this problem effectively will completely revolutionize the quality of life of Israelis.
• Legal policy:
A new legal revolution
In the 1990s, Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak engaged what is now known as the “constitutional revolution,” giving a tremendous amount of power to the courts and limiting the power of elected officials. Courts could now cancel legislation passed by parliament, legislative advisers now had a formal veto power to stop any policy advanced by elected officials, all of this while a nomination process unique to Israel for both judges and legislative advisers caused these to be incredibly unrepresentative of the Israeli population.
This situation is not only unacceptable to all those who believe in democracy and self-determination. It is also untenable as policy makers lose their ability to successfully implement policies.
It is now time for a new legal revolution in Israel, one which will return the power to elected officials and allow them to act as policy makers.
• A CRITICAL TIME:
Netanyahu’s fourth government will face challenges coming from all sides: existential threats from enemies, difficult relations with friends and internal problems.
The time ahead will be one of the most challenging in Israel’s recent history, making the current coalition negotiations critical in deciding how Israel will face these challenges.
The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Knesset’s coalition chairman; he previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.
The article was published on The Jerusalem Post on the 08th of April 2015