Does Europe Want Peace — or Political Relevance?

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


EIPA applauds Trump decision on Jerusalem

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.”


BREAKING NEWS: In unprecedented move 60 MEPs call on Mogherini to stop EU funds and isolate BDS movement

A cross party group of 60 Members of the European Parliament have urged the EU’s Foreign Affairs Chief, Federica Mogherini to marginalize, both financially and politically organizations such as BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) that are increasingly becoming a virulent source in the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism under the pretense of exercising freedom of speech and association.

The unprecedented initiative, spearheaded by representatives of the four major political groups, MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, MEP Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, Romania) and a Vice-President of the  European Parliament, MEP Petras Austrevicius (ALDE, Lithuania), MEP Arne Gericke (ECR, Germany) “calls upon ensuring that no public funds go to organizations calling for a boycott of the State of Israel, and to instruct agencies not to engage with companies, organizations or other entities involved with the BDS movement”. 

MEP Cristian DAN PREDA, foreign affairs coordinator for the largest political group, the European People’s Party, and co-initiator of the letter underlined  his party’s  opposition to calls for the suspension of the bilateral agreements with Israel  as some of his extreme left wing colleagues echo directly from the BDS playbook.   “It’s in the interest of this House, and of our citizens, to see an upgrade in the partnership agreement with Israel. We should not allow the current stalemate in the peace process to dictate the terms of our relationship with Israel.”

Swedish MEP and President of EIPA’S political Board Lars Adaktusson – a co- signatory – underlined that “the Union, and the Parliament, is in danger of being deemed irrelevant as a peace broker if it fails to address the incitement on its own soil against Israel.”  

Vice President of the European Parliament, Ioan Mircea Pascu concluded that  “boycotting strategic ties with Israel,  a leader in the intelligence and defence international community, may prove counterproductive to the common security interests  of both EU and Israel”.

The 60 signatories, among which are Chair of Security and Defence, MEP Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), Vice-Preident Pavel Telicka (ALDE, Czech Republic), Dietmar Koster (S&D, Germany), Vice-Chair of Human Rights Beatriz Becerra (ALDE, Spain) urged their Foreign Affairs chief to “address the incitement to hatred and violence and discriminatory practice of calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel.”

Europe Israel Public Affairs Founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin welcomed the initiative of the 60 MEPs: “Israel sometimes feels misunderstood by Europe, and this leads to a further strain on the relations. The European Parliament takes pride in its diversity, and we are glad to see such a wide support for investment, rather than divestment from something that has been for more than 3 decades a mutually advantageous bilateral relation”.

 


EU-Israel relations: Trojan horses, snakes, ladders and boycotts

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:

  1. 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);
  2. 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;
  3. Prevent EU taxpayers’ money to fund any entity that calls for the boycott of the State of Israel;
  4. 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


After 5-year dry spell, EU and Israel move to upgrade ties

Despite policy disagreements, officials confirm high-level bilateral Association Council might convene next year for first time since 2012

After years in which relations between the European Union and Israel have been frosty, bilateral ties will take a significant leap forward in 2017, senior officials from both sides said this week.

In one notable sign of such warming ties, Jerusalem and the EU are in advanced talks over convening the EU-Israel Association Council, a bilateral forum on ministerial level, early next year. The last such meeting took place in 2012.

“Quite a lot of good things are happening, often unseen by the naked eye, but they are there,” Nicholas Westcott, the director of the EU External Action Service’s North Africa and Middle East department, said this week during a visit in Tel Aviv. “We hope early next year to have an Association Council, which we haven’t had for a while, to look at a ministerial level how we can take the relationship forward.”

If a EU-Israel Association Council meeting were to be held in 2017, the EU would likely be represented by its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Israel by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, The Times of Israel has learned.

In addition, the EU “would like to develop something we call partnership priorities,” said Westcott, who is the second-most senior EU diplomat dealing with the Middle East, after Mogherini. The so-called partnership priorities are a new instrument regulating bilateral ties that emerged of the EU’s 2015 review of its neighborhood policy program.

Visiting Jerusalem this week for the second time since he took over his position, Westcott met with various senior officials in the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and COGAT, the branch of the Israeli army that deals with civilian matters in the West Bank.

“The main focus was on EU-Israel cooperation, which is moving in a relatively positive direction,” he said. “We are looking at areas where we can deepen cooperation within the existing framework and beginning to think about what the next generation of framework might be.”

The anticipated rapprochement does not entail a formal upgrade of ties. But several officials from both sides said this week that there are clear indications that Israel and the EU will improve bilateral relations in various ways. This is projected to happen despite remaining differences of opinion, such as the union’s vehement opposition to settlement expansion and Israeli demolitions of EU-funded structures in Area C of the West Bank.

There are “significant signs that the bilateral relationship is making progress and going forward,” one senior EU official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon concurred with that assessment and confirmed ongoing talks over convening the EU-Israel Association Council in the near future. He added that this particular forum is just one of various expressions of ongoing bilateral dialogue between Jerusalem and Brussels, such as the annual EU-Israel Seminar on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Antisemitism, which is taking place later this month.

Last planned major update in ties fell over Cast Lead

After the 11th and last meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council, held in July 2012 in Brussels, the union said it viewed the event as a “demonstration of the significance the EU attaches to its relations with the State of Israel.” The council meeting reiterated the “importance of further developing our broad bilateral partnership,” the EU said in a statement at the time.

But in July 2013 the EU angered Israel by issuing new regulations according to which no Israeli body that operates or has links beyond the Green Line can receive EU funding or have any cooperation with the EU.

Jerusalem replied by vowing not sign any further agreements with the European Union until the EU “clarifies” its new regulations. In the wake of the heated arguments over the so-called guidelines, no Association Council was held that year and in the following years.

EU-Israel relations took another hit in November 2015, when the union instructed its member states to label certain Israeli goods made outside the pre-1967 lines. Israeli officials fumed and, amid accusations of anti-Semitism, vowed to curtail bilateral ties.

“We have to reset our relationship with the EU,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January. “There is a natural tendency in the EU establishment to single out Israel and treat it in ways that other countries are not being dealt with, and especially other democracies,” he said. “And I think it’s wrong. I think it should be corrected.”

However, after a meeting with Mogherini the following month, Netanyahu said he was ready to bury the hatchet.

“Israel and the European Union have agreed to put relations between us back on track,” he declared. Mogherini had assured him that the labeling was “non-binding” and does not reflect the EU’s position on Israel’s final borders, he added.

“Of course, this is not to say that there will not be friction. There are things that we do not agree on,” he said.

Indeed, the EU’s longstanding opposition to Israeli settlement expansions has been one of the key sources of tensions in the bilateral relationship, which are anchored in the EU-Israel Association Agreement from 2000.

In 2005, the two parties agreed upon a so-called Action Plan, an important bilateral agreement that sought to “gradually integrate Israel into European policies and programmes.”

In 2008, the two sides agreed to upgrade the Action Plan, but due to the break out of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza a few months later — and ongoing arguments over settlement buildings — Brussels froze these negotiations.

The current rapprochement between Israel and the EU is in its fragile early stages and does not entail plans for negotiations over a new Action Plan, officials from both sides stressed this week. However, the current Action Plan remains in force.

Despite the expected detente, the union remains strongly opposed to Israel’s construction of housing units beyond the Green Line. Westcott, the senior EU official, said in Tel Aviv this week, called on Israel to take urgent steps to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“We do not regard the status quo as indefinitely stable. It will become increasingly unstable, in unpredictable ways,” he said. “Something will give — might be sooner, might be later. But it’s not sustainable, so we still have to find a better solution than the status quo. It’s not a stable status quo, it’s evolving all the time. And you never know at what point it will tip, and which way it will tip.”

Westcott disagreed with the assertion, often made by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, that the current turmoil in the region means that Israel must not rush to make territorial concessions.

“Regional instability and uncertainty over the Middle East generally is a factor that makes it, from an EU point of view, more important to make progress with the peace process, rather than less,” he said. “We think that making progress on the peace process is important for overall regional stability.”

Westcott also said he sees an improvement regarding Palestinian incitement against Israelis. The Israeli government has recently brought to his attention “one or two” examples of incitement, “but not a lot,” he told The Times of Israel.

It is possible that Palestinian leaders have realized, in light of increasing international criticism, that incitement is unhelpful in their bid to reach an agreement with Israel, Westcott continued. “And the Palestinians have an interest in creating a conducive environment for a two-state solution.”

The article was published on The Times of Israel.


EU Civil Protection Mechanism to help Israel stop wildfires

To help contain the spread of devastating wildfires, Israel has requested European assistance through the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism on 24 November.

Substantial assistance has been offered via the Mechanism. Spain will shortly send four fire-fighting airplanes, and France has offered two fire-fighting airplanes as well as one investigation airplane.

In addition, bilateral support from Italy and Cyprus will be channelled through the Union Mechanism, concerning the return trip of the fire-fighting airplanes.

EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “We stand by the Israeli people and authorities at this time of need. Not only in words but with concrete support. I’m pleased that EU Member States are showing their solidarity in action. We will continue to be in close contact with the Israeli authorities to mobilise further offers of assistance as required.”

The EU has immediately responded to the call for assistance and has helped mobilise 7 airplanes to support Israel so far, thanks to the generosity of our Member States. Our solidarity and thoughts are with all those affected and the first responders working to save lives. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this time of need” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

The Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is coordinating assistance through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, which can be activated by a Member State or a country outside the EU when it is overwhelmed by a natural or man-made disaster.

Background

The European Commission coordinates the voluntary offers made by participating states though the Mechanism, and can co-finance the transport of relief items and experts to the country in question.

The mobilisation of assistance is coordinated through the Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), which closely monitors developments and offers the possibility of transport co-financing for the offered assistance.

The assistance can consist of items for immediate relief as well as experts and supporting intervention teams. In the case of fires, this can include fire-extinguishing aircraft. The Commission cannot send planes or equipment itself via the Mechanism.

Overall, the Mechanism facilitates the cooperation in disaster response among 34 European states (28 EU Member States, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey).

The piece was published on the EEAS website.

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On the EU Agenda

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 : 

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/home.html— 

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MEPs DEMAND PERSONAL DENOUNCEMENT OF TERROR ATTACK AND PLO FROM EU FOREIGN CHIEF MOGHERINI

By now, you will have undoubtedly heard about last night’s despicable terror attack in the trendy and buzzing Sarona district of Tel Aviv, in which 4 people were killed and over a dozen injured when two gunmen opened fire on diners in a restaurant.

EIPA was busy as soon as news broke of the attack, and today we managed to mobilise 21 vital and important voices in the European Parliament, despite a busy Strasbourg session into action. Why did we do so?

Largely because of the anodyne response from the EEAS’ chief’s Federica Mogherini spokesperson. It appeared that the attack didn’t warrant a response from the High Representative herself in person.

This is the sum total of what the spokesperson had to say:

“Wednesday night’s terror attack in the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv exposed scores of innocent civilians and families to indiscriminate fire. Four people were killed and more seriously injured. Our thoughts are with the families of the dead and injured. Those responsible for these murders must be brought to justice. Those who praise this attack must be condemned.”

A cross-party group of 21 Members of the European Parliament – including Vice-Presidents, Senior Foreign Affairs Committee Members and the Chairman for the delegation for relations with Israel felt this didn’t go nearly far enough.

The MEPs, in their joint statement – which we at EIPA initiated – said today from Strasbourg”

 “We Members of the European Parliament, are shocked and saddened at the terror attack that took place last night in the Sarona Market, Tel Aviv.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, Idan Ben Arieh, Ilana Neveh, Michael Faiga and Mila Meshayev and we wish a speedy recovery to the 13 people wounded as a consequence of this heinous and abhorrent terrorist act.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of senseless barbarism, and call upon the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to promptly, and without equivocation, denounce this act of terrorism, and again on the occasion of his visit to the European Parliament on June 22.

“We also call upon the High Representative of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, to condemn this terrorist act, and to denounce the Palestine Liberation Organisation for inciting further violence by calling the attack ‘a natural response’.

“We reiterate our ongoing support for a two state solution on the basis of 1967 borders, whilst ensuring the security of the State of Israel in tandem with an independent democratic and viable Palestinian State.”

We at EIPA want to thank the 21 MEPs, and if you want to as well, their names are below and you can find their details HERE

Cristian Dan PREDA (EPP, Romania), Ramon TREMOSA I BALCELLS (ALDE, Spain), Lars ADAKTUSSON (EPP, Sweden), Fulvio MARTUSCIELLO (EPP, Italy), Arne GERICKE (ECR, Germany), Petras AUSTREVICIUS (Vice-Chair ALDE, Lithuania), Jan ZAHRADIL (Vice-Chair ECR, Czech Republic), Bas BELDER (ECR, the Netherlands), Tunne KELAM (EPP, Estonia), Hannu TAKKULA (ALDE, Finland), Marijana PETIR ( EPP, Croatia), Milan ZVER (EPP, Slovenia), Frederique RIES (ALDE, Belgium), Geoffrey van ORDEN ( Vice-chair ECR, UK), Charles TANNOCK (ECR, UK), Ioan Mircea PASCU (S&D, Romania, Vice President of the European Parliament), Andrej PLENKOVIC (EPP, Croatia), Artis PABRIKS (EPP, Latvia), Davor Ivo STIER (EPP, Croatia), Ryszard CZARNECKI (ECR, Poland, Vice President of the European Parliament), Ramona Nicole MANESCU (EPP, Romania)

In the meantime, we thank for your support at this difficult time, and we all hope for easier days ahead.

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