There is much to be said about the European Union’s latest move toward boycotting Jews in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. The most damning reaction, however, probably comes from those the EU might have expected to support them: the Knesset’s two-state caucus. Labor Knesset member Hilik Bar, for example, founded the two-state caucus and vocally opposes any Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank without official Palestinian acquiescence.
Yet when the European Union, as Haaretz reports, “published a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” even supporters of the two-state solution such as Bar were scratching their heads. Bar told the Times of Israel that “This directive is simply a mistake, a stupid move that strengthens the right’s sense that we are under siege,” and that it will only serve to keep Mahmoud Abbas from negotiating in good faith.
Bar is right: the EU directive is “a stupid move” that will only make peace less likely. But the stupidity of the EU’s decision is only the beginning. Bar tried to give the EU the benefit of the doubt, telling the Times of Israel that EU leaders are unintentionally sabotaging peace talks–that they want peace, but are simply too ignorant and incompetent not to undermine those who have to live among the wreckage of the EU’s reverse-Midas touch.
Bar may be giving the EU too much credit. There isn’t much evidence the EU actually wants peace. If they can agree to shun Jews from Jerusalem but not Hezbollah, then it’s quite the leap to assume they only want what’s best for everyone. But intentions aside, the EU’s attempt to sabotage the peace process is actually two-pronged, and Haaretz followed up with an explanation of the other element of the EU’s scheme: a signal to Abbas that as long as he refuses to accept any peace plans, Europe will reward him with additional actions targeting Jews in the region. As Haaretz reports:
A senior American official involved in efforts to kick-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has warned that should U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts fail, European Union members states will adopt additional measures against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. …
The U.S. administration and the political echelon in Jerusalem surmise that European countries will blame Israel should Kerry’s efforts fail – and that they will then move ahead with plans to label goods produced in Israeli settlements across the 28-member union. Other European proposals that have been raised include requiring visas for Israeli settlers wishing to travel to the EU.
It almost makes you pity John Kerry. The secretary of state will travel to the region again next week, and seems to think he has no choice but to walk right into the bear trap the EU has set for him. This is not to suggest that the prospects for peace were any good before the EU got involved. But they have made Kerry’s task impossible. Even for Brussels, this is some serious chutzpah: the EU has decided to use a Jewish period of national mourning to target Jerusalem’s Jews as well as preempt the chief American diplomat’s work by sabotaging his trip and setting him up for a humiliating public failure they engineered.
Obviously, if the Palestinians think they can get concessions without having to negotiate with Israel or give anything up, that’s exactly what they’ll do. But beyond the current fracas, this continues two troubling trends with regard to the European Union. In December, I wrote about one of them: the fact that the EU had seemingly set its “red line” for a two-state solution such that it conflicts with Israel’s “red line.” The ramifications, I wrote, were that “No peace plan that would be acceptable to the Israeli people would be acceptable to the EU.”
Seen in that light, the EU’s actions this week (and threats about future actions) shouldn’t be too surprising. The Europe-Israel relationship has its bright spots, but the EU consolidates opinion so that it can speak with one voice. The relationship, then, will continue to deteriorate.
The other trend is what I referred to in May as “reverse integration.” The concept is James Mann’s, and its original application was to China’s role in the world. Mann argued that the West’s policy of integrating China into world affairs may be more likely to dilute the democratic character of the international system than empower democratic movements within China. I applied the concept to the debate over whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. Supporters of the UK’s membership in the EU say it can serve as an advocate for the Atlantic alliance and the Anglosphere from within, and perhaps shift EU policy accordingly.
In reality, the more likely result will be that the UK will be absorbed, outvoted, and serve as a rubber stamp to the EU’s undemocratic behavior. This week’s news about the EU’s attempts to ostracize Jews living in their eternal capital via universal directives is a good example of how the EU will work against both common sense and Western objectives, even if it means undercutting American diplomacy and Israeli supporters of the two-state solution.