EU is shamefully ignoring number one Israeli concern: Security

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.

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This Article was written by our executive director , Alex Benjamin and was published on The Times of Israel


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


Mogherini ‘glad to hear’ Netanyhu’s commitment to two states

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015. (AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015.
(AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)

“I am glad to hear his commitment to two states. EU ready to help,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini tweeted Wednesday night after a meeting with Israeli  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu publicly pledged his support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in his first clear policy statement on the issue since his new government was formed last week.

“I don’t support a one state solution – I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” Netanyahu said as he met with Mogherini who is on a two-day visit.

“I support the vision of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision forth in a practical, secure and responsible way,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu assured Mogherini that he was committed to resolving the conflict.

“Israel wants peace. I want peace. We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all. My position has not changed,” Netanyahu said. He added that Israel has taken tangible steps to make life easier for the Palestinians.

“We’ve taken economic steps, added measures for reconstruction and development and ensuring ongoing humanitarian support. We’ll continue with those practical steps,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister added that “if I look around at our region and the world, the most dangerous enemy of peace is Iran.” ” Iran is arming and training Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Iran is opening a third terror front against Israel in the Golan and it is pursuing its nuclear program, which I believe poses the greatest threat to the region and to the world.”

He stressed that the Lausanne program ”will not block Iran’s path to the bomb.” “Iran’s emerging deal with the world powers facilitates and legitimizes Iran’s continued development of the capabilities of forming nuclear weapons. And by prematurely easing sanctions, the deal will give Iran many billions of dollars with which to fund its aggression and its worldwide terror campaign.”

Prior to her arrival in the region, Mogherini said that the EU wanted to play a major role in relaunching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians “on the basis of the two-state solution.”

“The EU is interested in peace and security for Israel and for the region because this is also our European peace and security.”

Earlier in Ramallah, where she met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Mogherini spoke against the status quo and said that it was a European, Palestinian and Israeli interest “to move forward, because there is no status quo.”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzi Hotovely, who also met with Mogherini in Jerusalem, told the EU top diplomat that for the peace process to resume, the Palestinians need to return to the negotiating table and must halt their unilateral steps against Israel in the international arena.

Referring to the Jerusalem terror attack earlier in the day in which two Border Police Officers were hurt by a Palestinian terrorists who tried to run them down, Hotovely said that Europe should strongly condemn terrorism, as well as back Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

Hotovely welcomed Mogherini comment that she was interested in coming now after the establishment of the new Israeli government to listen to both sides, saying that her visit at the time had a “great deal of importance.”

Mogherini is scheduled to meet the leader of the Opposition Zionist Union Isaac Herzog and President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, before she returns to Brussels.

 

By Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor at Europe Israel Press Association.


On the EU agenda

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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