13-year-old terror victim tells story at European Parliament

A 13-year-old survivor of a terrorist attack addresses the guests and few parliamentarians who show up to witness the new group sign a declaration opposing BDS.

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)


MEP of the Month : Fulvio Martusciello

Ok, ok so we are a tiny bit biased here at EIPA about Fulvio. As Chairman of the the European Parliament’s delegation for Relations with Israel and as a member of our EIPA political advisory committee, he’s one of our most valued and important contacts in the European Parliament.

The Forza Italia MEP continues to defend Israel at every and any opportunity. This month, he along with Bastian Belder (a previous winner of MEP of the month), lambasted Martina Anderson – the former convicted IRA bomber, Sinn Fein MEP and Chair for Parliament relations with Palestine – when she compared Israelis and pro-Israel advocates in the European Parliament to a rash. Ever the charmer is Mrs Anderson.

Martusciello immediately wrote to the President to complain about such unparliamentary language with clear anti-semitic undertones and was in the media too.

Grazie Mille Mr Martusciello, and Mazal Tov!

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MEP of the Month: Daniel Hannan

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!

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MEP of The Month – Mr Arne Gericke

For the only MEP elected to the European Parliament from Germany’s Family Party, Mr Gericke packs quite a punch. An outspoken critic of the erosion of family values, when he speaks in the European Parliament, people listen. But it is his unashamed support for the State of Israel, his love of the country and its democratic values, and his willingness to step up to the plate in defence of it that sets him apart for us here in EIPA.

As a member of EIPA’s advisory committee and a newly signed up member of a Parliamentary working group looking into accountability and conditionality of EU Aid as a whole, Mr Gericke is often seen speaking up on Israel’s behalf, either late into the night during Parliamentary debates in Strasbourg or first thing in the morning at briefings and events.

An articulate drafter of Parliamentary questions and also questions to the European Commission too, Arne Gericke has a knack of getting straight to the matter, leaving little wriggle room for opponents to try and untangle themselves. For these reasons and for being a great friend of EIPA’s as well as Israel’s, Mr Gericke you are our MEP of the month. Mazal Tov!

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How one phrase divided the EU and Israel

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.

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank on November 12, 2015. The European Union announced that goods from settlements -- Jewish communities built in areas occupied by force in 1967 -- must be specifically labelled, infuriating Israel. The EU ruling affects products imported from settlements in the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights, all taken by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

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


EU, Israel and the peace process in the Middle East

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. 

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Below my speech in the plenary:

Mr President,

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.

Thank you.

The text was published on MEP Lars Adaktusson blog on September 9th 2015


EIPA Advisory Board Delegation to Israel, 30th of June – 3rd of July 2015

Last week, Europe Israel Public Affairs hosted 7 Members of the European Parliament for a three day delegation to the State of Israel.

 

Many were members of the EIPA Advisory Board, made up of Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum. We held a series of meetings with Israeli ministers, government officials and Members of the Israeli Parliament. The agenda also included a briefing by IDF Lt. Yitzak Malca on Mount Bental, on the challenges and dangers IDF medical units face while trying to save Syrian refugees that cross over the Syrian border in order to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Minister Gilad Erdan, recently appointed to head Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information, emphasised the strategic interests that the EU and Israel share while pointing out the tension arising when the EU puts pressure on only one partner in the peace process. Setting in place and carrying out economic sanctions against Israel not only alienates Israel, but also sends the message to the Palestinians that the EU rewards unilateral action without asking them to address the existing Palestinian terror infrastructure.

The delegation was also briefed by the Head of the National Security Council, Yossi Cohen on the wider Middle East and on the various Islamic terrorist branches competing for territory and ideological supremacy all around Israel’s borders. Mr. Cohen also updated the MEPs on Israel’s position regarding the current E3+ 3 nuclear negotiations with Iran, underlining that regardless of the nuclear deal, Iran remains the main sponsor of global terrorism.

The Chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Israel, MEP Fulvio Martusciello, together with the rest of the delegation, met with MK Yaakov Peri, his newly appointed Israeli counterpart. The two chairs agreed to hold a joint Knesset-EP meeting in the next couple of months.

Because Israel is a pluralist democratic state, it was important that the Delegation also had the opportunity to hear the voice of the opposition party, Zionist Union, MK Nachman Shai, who shared his party position on the many social issues that Israel needs to address as a country.