A more terror-threat conscious European Parliament condemns violent attacks against Israelis

“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

Foreign Ministers Discussing Middle East Peace Process

Today 28 Ministers of Foreign Affairs, meeting under the framework of the Foreign Affairs Council in Bruxelles, will be discussing the recent developments in the Middle East Peace Process. Following the Paris Peace Conference as well as the US Secretary of State Peace Principles, the statement today is expected to re-state EU’s position on Israeli settlements as well as to address the latest challenges to the peace process.  

For updates on the EU common position, click HERE

Anti-Semitism in Britain directly hurts our efforts towards peace in the Middle East

yairTwo events took place last week in two places as far apart as you can imagine, but they had something in common.

The first took place in the House of Lords where Jenny Tonge from the Liberal Democrats hosted a meeting calling on the government to apologise to the Palestinians for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Her Majesty’s government recognised the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the land of Israel.

During the event it was argued that Jews were to blame for the Holocaust, Jews suggested the Final Solution to Hitler (the fact that the Jews were the victims was strangely omitted), the State of Israel was compared to Isil and one of those who spoke claimed that “the Jews are the real anti-Semites.” To my knowledge none of those present bothered to tell him that his statement was absurd at worst, and actually still absurd at best.

The second event took place a few days prior, far away from the House of Lords, in the settlement of Efrat near Bethlehem. A group of dozens of Palestinians came to the “Tent of Peace” which was built by the Mayor of the local authority in honour of the Jewish holy day of Sukkot. They sat there together, Jews and Muslims, Sheiks and heads of Palestinian villages with Jewish settlers, enemies on paper but also just human beings, who live in the same battered and bruised land, and know that not everything in life is politics.

The conversation also wasn’t political. They drank coffee which was far too sweet (another Middle Eastern sin of which we are all guilty), talked about the rain that wasn’t yet coming, a bit about Judaism and Islam. The Mayor spoke about the fact that relationships between people are the key to a life together rather than pieces of paper signed by politicians.

Among the Palestinians was the family of a girl who had been killed in a road accident by a settler. As a result of the dialogue between the two sides, speed bumps were put in place on the road leading to their village and the people of Efrat came to pay their respects to the family. Another flare up was averted.

Two days later four of the Palestinians who had visited the “Tent of Peace” were arrested by the Palestinian Authority for “contact with the enemy.”

The Palestinian Authority people made clear that they knew that there was no “political dialogue” in the “Tent of Peace”. From their perspective, any attempt to conduct normal dialogue between people was a crime, and the punishment was jail. For them, so long as there is no Palestinian state, Jews and Arabs should only see one another through the sight of a gun.

As one who supports an agreement with the Palestinians and two states for two peoples, these two separate events sadden me to the same extent. An agreement, any agreement, will be dependent not only on maps and security arrangements but also on trust. If the Palestinians believe any dialogue with a Jew is a crime, and if supporters of the Palestinians think that the Jews are the ones who killed themselves in the Holocaust and they don’t deserve a state, who exactly are we supposed to talk with?

The blatant anti-Semitism on display at Jenny Tonge’s event doesn’t bother me. Lord Balfour supported the creation of a home for the Jewish people because he understood that there would always be people like that. The creation of the State of Israel doesn’t prevent modern anti-Semitism, it just allows us to tell the anti-Semites that they can shove it.

What does bother me though is that meetings like the one in the House of Lords strengthen the conviction of the Palestinians, time and again, that they have no reason to try and reach a reasonable compromise. If that’s the way Jews are talked about in the House of Lords, then even the Palestinian Authority can drop the façade of being moderate and start to lock up anyone who dares talk about peace and coexistence.

The piece was written by Yair Lapid,a member of Knesset, Chairperson of the Yesh Atid Party, is a former Finance Minister and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Knesset. It was published in The Telegraph on the 1st of November 2016

Will rare Israeli-Palestinian parley in Jericho pave way to peace process?

Israeli and Palestinian ministers held a rare meeting in Jericho on Wednesday morning, as a possible first step toward a thaw in the peace process which has been frozen for over two years.

“I think the success of today’s meeting will help increase the chances of dialogue at the level of heads of states, a summit where the head of the Palestinian Authority can participate. Today’s meeting seems to point in a positive direction,” Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) told reporters at the city’s Oasis Hotel.

“Given the stagnation in the public dialogue, it was very significant to hold a diplomatic dialogue that speaks to the will to move forward together,” Hanegbi said.

The Likud minister had just met with PA Minister for Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh, in an event organized by Japan and hosted by its visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Kentaro Sonoura. Jordan’s Saleh Kharabsheh, secretary-general of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, was also present at the meeting.

The meeting, attended by delegations from each of the four governments, marked one of the highest-level public interactions between Israelis and Palestinians in the last two years. It comes amid failed attempts by the European Union and Russia to organize a high-level Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

That the delegations could explore ways to advance economic, industrial and agriculture issues that touch people’s lives “is an excellent basis for continued diplomatic contacts,” Hanegbi said.

The diplomats and politicians met to advance a Japan-sponsored industrial park in Jericho, thereby turning that West Bank city near the Dead Sea into an economic pipeline for the production and export of Palestinian products to the larger Arab world.

Japan has contributed $300 million to the Jericho Agricultural Industrial Park, termed the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity.” Israel has given $50m. for the project and will help facilitate the construction of a new road to the Allenby Border Crossing into Jordan, which will run parallel to Route 90 in the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinian-only road will allow goods to be delivered quickly from the industrial park to the crossing.

After the meeting, Sonoura noted that this was the fifth such meeting since planning for the park had begun in 2006.

The last such four-way dialogue had taken place at the same hotel in 2013.

Back then, he said, the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians appeared to be moving forward.

This time, the meeting was held outside the context of any such framework and without a clear sense of what is likely to happen between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Still, he said, “the importance of cooperation has not faded.”

“It is my understanding that since the peace talks stopped in 2014, this is the first time that both the Palestinians and Israeli leaders at the ministerial level have met in public. This gives great power to the initiative,” Sonoura told reporters after the meeting.

Before the meeting and again afterward, both Sheikh and Hanegbi publicly shook hands.

Sheikh opened his remarks by wishing the Israeli delegation in Hebrew “Boker tov” (“Good morning”). He also exchanged a few Hebrew pleasantries with Hanegbi after the meeting.

Hanegbi told reporters that the meeting had focused on issues relating to the industrial park and that the atmosphere had been very positive.

He added that he believes that the drop in violent Palestinian attacks against Israelis had paved the way for the meeting to take place.

“We saw the major decrease in the hostilities in the last four or five months,” said Hanegbi, who explained that the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian delegations had “sat like neighbors trying to help each other.”

Improving the Palestinian economy would also help create peace in the region, Hanegbi said.

“For many, many years we tried to convince our Palestinian neighbors to put all their energy in building their own livelihood. Unfortunately, some segments of the Palestinian society are still drowning in their own animosity toward Israel,” he said.

“This meeting focused only on the positive,” Hanegbi said.

But the best way to resolve the conflict, he said, is the resumption of direct Israeli- Palestinian talks.

“Many parts of the political arena are trying to bridge the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

This includes Russia, the United States and Europe.

In our view, major progress can be achieved only through direct negotiations without preconditions,” Hanegbi said.

Sheikh welcomed the project but said that “we must ensure that there are suitable and sustainable water and electricity resources” as well as “freedom of movement and access” for the goods.

He was pleased, he said, that Jericho, which has been a “hub of industry” for thousands of years, will continue to play a key role in developing the Palestinian and regional economy.

This vision, however, can be achieved only with “an independent state of Palestine,” Sheikh said.


The article was published on The Jerusalem Post website on the 8th of September 2016.

Netanyahu tells French PM he rejects Paris peace bid, but offers to meet Abbas

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.

Valls said he would welcomeF160523YS03-635x357 direct negotiations and would speak to French President Francois Hollande about the proposal.

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.

What Israel should do to lay the groundwork for peace

As I write this, there is no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no diplomatic process underway, and no indication of imminent negotiations. Yet, even with no way forward, even with no clear timetable for an end to the conflict — the tragedy that envelops us all — we are duty bound to recognize where and how we can take effective action to improve the prospect that we willbe able to live together, Jews and Arabs, in our region as we are destined rather than doomed to do.YE0632926_l

Israel must take steps to improve the situation independent of the geopolitical territorial debate — steps that every sensible person understands serve simultaneously Israel’s moral and practical interests. Without resolving the question of whether or not Israel today has a Palestinian partner for peace, it is self-evident that the building of the new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is in Israel’s interest. Likewise, it is clear that cultivating channels of communication and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, educators and cultural figures improves our situation. Is there anyone who does not see the value and importance of the majority of the Jewish population being able to speak Arabic (a plan for which I am pleased to see has been brought before the Knesset)? When it comes to all these possibilities, we should have started yesterday.

Even in Jerusalem, seen by many as the greatest diplomatic challenge to any peace treaty, there is much we can do. It is worth understanding that the Israeli right has long ignored the eastern part of the city for reasons of internal political differences, while the left has equally neglected investing in the need for infrastructure to serve the 300,000 Palestinians of the city as part of an ideology of political separation from the Palestinians. Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?

In the heat of our internal controversy over the country’s borders, the character of our neighbors and the nature of the final settlement or its feasibility, we are prone to ignore the necessity of managing relations between people in the present. But it is the here-and-now in which people — including children and young people — actually live. It is the present in which their consciousness is formed and their path in life crystalized.

Confidence, however, cannot be built unilaterally. It is clear that the Palestinians must end the incitement and violence against Israel. They must end the rejection of the very existence of Israel. To Palestinian youths I say: For too many years, blood has been shed like water on this land. No blood is redder than any other. Lives matter. Our lives matter. Your lives matter. I urge Palestinian parents and teachers to foster in their young dreams of life, not aspirations of death. The struggle between our peoples has already seen so much death and bloodshed — more death and bloodshed is not going to solve it.
This Op-Ed was written by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and was published on The Washington Post

Israel Suspends Peace Process Dialogue with EU

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.ShowImage

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.

Alex Benjamin, EIPA Executive Director