The US Congress has passed an amendment to its Trade Promotion bill which requires its trade representative to discourage EU countries from supporting any type of BDS activity against Israel AND the oPt . The State Department stepped in quickly to pull back from this position insisting it still regarded the settlements as illegal, and therefore boycotts or divestment – which are engaged in by companies and individuals rather than countries – will not bring penalties. The aim of the bill is to provide leaner, quicker routes to trade agreements with any region in the world.
The EU makes law on trade with Israel – favourable trade terms plus a ban on settlements products which must be properly labelled. This Al Shabaka analysis says the law is about fair trade, not political principles such as BDS. The EU and Israel have ‘strong and structured agreements they have built up with Israel over the years’ but Europeans are increasingly alarmed that Israel is betraying the ‘shared values’ on which this tradition is founded. The Palestinian position is incoherent, disorganized and unprofessional weakening a leg on which the EU needs to stand.
The end of any pretence of a peace process has given the movement for BDS more publicity, more energy and more traction in international politics. Here, the Wall Street Journal looks at its impact on settlement producers. As Europe is their main market, some are looking to their closest allies, American Christians, to replace EU countries.
So far two American states have passed resolutions opposing any boycott against any product from Israel or its settlements and one state, Illinois, has passed an amendment prohibiting state agencies from entering into a contract with any agency that boycotts Israel (settlements included). This would prohibit trade with the EU if it continues with its policy of not trading with settlements.
An Italian and an Israeli analyst look at where the EU and Israel have incompatible policies (on MEPP – Middle East Peace Process) but where there is room for rapprochement and diplomacy. The EU should be more pragmatic, Israel should get out of its immobilising hole and both need more courage and practical, realistic action.
The EU is donating €3.5 million for infrastructure projects in Area C of the West Bank. Water supply, roads, education and medical amenities are all lacking and often destroyed by the IDF. In a sharp rebuke, Michael Köhler, who signed the agreement with PM Hamdallah, said Israel was not meeting its obligations as the controlling power to Palestinian people.
Israel’s Nature and Parks authority have demolished small shelters, donated by the EU, for the Bedouin living in Issiwaya near Jerusalem. The aim is obvious – to clear all Bedouin out of the area so that Jewish settlements can be built there. It remains to be seen what the EU will do about this.
Israeli voters have never had to face the consequences of the occupation of Palestinian land. So, says Matthew Duss, they have had no incentive to vote for anyone who wants to change the policy on Palestine. The EU could affect the election by choosing to enforce costs on Israelis for illegal settlements and occupation.
The EU is the biggest donor to the oPt and the PNA. But the IDF destroys much of the infrastructure European taxpayers have funded and there has been no movement towards the establishment of a Palestinian state – the point of the aid. Now senior EU officials are questioning whether there is any point in continuing this funding.
Robert Cohen takes on the task of reading the Board of Deputies EU manifesto all the way through – and reaches a hiatus: between its good proposals for us in Europe and its proposals for relations with Israel there is a serious moral and political failure. Young British Jews expect something more truthful and moral.
One of Palestin’e most incisive political thinkers, Rashid Khalidi, talks to Philip Weiss of what options the Palestinians now have. He is less hopeful of NVDA (see posting above), has no hopes of the USA but does believe that institutions like the EU and ICC will have an open door for Palestinians to walk through – if they get on their feet.
EU foreign ministers have offered an unprecedented aid package and an upgrade to ‘special privileged partnership’ if Israel can reach a final peace agreement with Palestine. Israeli diplomats have dismissed the offer as ‘empty words’. Iarael, the foreign ministers implied, must stop acting as though the whole land is theirs (settlements, home demolitions). Although Palestinians have been warned to do nothing rash, the burden of responsibility for the talks is clearly on the Israelis.
Building new homes for Israeli Jews, knocking down existing homes of Palestinians (including Israeli Bedouin) constitutes Israel’s violent drive to control all land in Palestine/Israel, preferably confining Palestinians to refugee camps. Here, 36 charities and aid groups sign a statement calling for an immediate end to the demolitions. ICAHD and the ECCP issue a more political statement on demolitions, the EU and international law.
Israel’s hostility to the EU seems at an all-time high, with the IDF prepared to rough up EU diplomats engaged in the perfectly legitimate task of delivering humanitarian aid to West Bank Palestinians. Perhaps Israel might care to ask why Palestinians need help from a foreign agency? From inside their bunker, the Israeli government declared the EU mission ‘a provocation’.
Tentative and unpublicised moves between EU and Hamas representatives have been proceeding since 2011 when the Arab uprisings threw out the EU’s old chums and officials had to hastily rethink who they had relations with in Arab countries. This was an opening for Hamas who have taken the initiative in try to reverse its label as a ‘terrorist organisation’ which thus prohibits diplomatic relations. The sticking point is Hamas’s refusal to reocognise the state of Israel – although its acceptance of a 2-state solution is a de facto recognition.
Recently, a former communications officer from Netanyahu’s office wrote an hysterical column charging Germans with reverting to their past and boycotting Jews – because Germany has accepted the EU law that imports from Israeli companies be labelled with place of origin.The German ambassador delivers a measured rebuke.
A by-product of Kerry’s mission to to Israel/Palestine is disarray in the EU. The EU has remained consistent in the policy of supporting two states, opposing settlements, and supporting the labelling of settlement products. The US thinks the EU should stay still while Kerry pursues his mission, a position which Lady Ashton agrees with.
In a report for the European Council of Foreign Relations (not a EU body) former diplomat Nick Witney writes with unusual lucidity and honesty about the EU’s cowardice on Israel/Palestine. The EU wants to be a player, but only through its diplomats who can only see their role as ‘mediators’ in an essentially unequal power conflict. Comment on report by Sam Bahour is second.
A proposed new law defines Israel as ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people’, at a stroke defining those of us who live elsewhere as expats, or perhaps outposts of the great colonising enterprise that is the Israeli state. Uri Avnery marvels at the cheek – and more seriously wonders about the future of the non-Jews in Israel and whether history is shaping the future of Israel-Palestine as part of a regional common market.
Palestinian efforts to get the EU (parliament and Commission) to take up issues of Palestinian human rights have increased and become more focussed in the last year. With several organisations now representing these interests, including the UFree network (based in Oslo) and the CEPR (Council for European Palestinian Relations), Palestinians hope that the EU’s reiterated commitment to unversal human rights will lead to more action to enforce those rights in their dealings with Israel.