For a body that prides itself on its “soft power,” the European Union has a remarkable capacity to stymie its own diplomatic goals through inept diplomacy.
A classic example was the UN-brokered agreement to reunify Cyprus in 2004, when the EU promised to admit Greek Cyprus regardless of whether it accepted the agreement, whereas Turkish Cyprus would be admitted only if both sides accepted the plan. The results were predictable: Greek Cypriots, their reward assured regardless of their behavior, had no reason to make even the minimal concessions the plan entailed, so they rejected it. But Turkish Cypriots, who approved it, were penalized: even the minor economic benefits the EU pledged after the vote never materialized, because Greek Cyprus used its shiny new EU veto to block them. Five years later, the negotiations drag on, and the island remains divided.
The EU is now poised to make the same mistake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, via a draft document proposed by its rotating president, Sweden, that Israeli diplomats say EU foreign ministers look certain to adopt on December 7. The document reportedly details every concession the EU expects Israel to make to the Palestinians but specifies no reciprocal Palestinian concessions. And it thereby feeds Palestinian illusions that they need not make any concessions; the international community will simply force Israel to accept all their demands.
Specifically, the document says that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian state and that the 1967 lines must be its borders, unless the Palestinians choose otherwise. It also implies that the EU would recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state in these borders “at the appropriate time.”
But it doesn’t demand that the Palestinians give up their dream of resettling millions of descendants of refugees in Israel — something everyone recognizes as a sine qua non of any agreement.
It doesn’t demand border adjustments to account for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live over the Green Line, especially in Jerusalem, though everyone knows this is necessary: no agreement that entailed evicting hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes would ever pass the Knesset.
It doesn’t demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state or acknowledge Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. It doesn’t require any security arrangements. It doesn’t even call for recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Normally, these issues would be resolved during negotiations. But if the EU has already “given” the Palestinians East Jerusalem and the 1967 borders, the Palestinians have no need to make concessions on, say, the “right of return” in exchange. Nor need they make such concessions in exchange for anything else, because once borders and Jerusalem are off the table, Israel has nothing left to give. In short, Israel will have no means of extracting the concessions it needs for a viable deal. Therefore, there will be no deal.
Adopting this document would thus kill any chance of achieving one of the EU’s own stated top priorities: Israeli-Palestinian peace. Evidently, some diplomats never learn.