Speaking to reporters yesterday, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, issued a remarkable statement about the EU’s position on the current peace negotiations taking place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That statement, and indeed the EU’s position, amounts to little more than an open threat, one that is ostensibly directed at both parties, but which would in practice hurt Israel first and foremost, even while purporting to punish the Palestinians.
The EU ambassador explained that should the current round of peace talks fail to yield results, “there will be a price to pay.” Specifically, that price for Israel would come in the form of a pulling back on trade relations between Europe and Israel, with the additional implication that the EU would move ahead with plans to label or boycott those products produced by Jewish businesses and communities in the disputed territories. For the Palestinians, the repercussions would amount to a cutback in EU funding for the Palestinian Authority. Admittedly, this is no empty threat given the PA’s dire financial predicament and the fact that the Europeans, not the Arab states, act as the Palestinians’ primary funders. Yet with even President Obama (in a break from his usual unworldly optimism) having said that he believes the current peace talks have less than a 50 percent chance of success, the Europeans are putting both sides in an incredibly unenviable, and indeed inadvisable, position.
There is a legitimate question to be asked here about whether this stance is really reasonable or fair to either side. If we for a moment assume the most charitable possible view of both parties, working on the basis that both Israel and the Palestinians are negotiating in good faith, is it so inconceivable that these talks, given their narrow time frame, might not be successful this time around? As has often been suggested, it may be the case that right now the most that Israel is able to offer is less than the Palestinians are willing to accept. Then, if we take the less charitable, although probably more realistic view, that sees PA head Mahmoud Abbas as not being interested in reaching an agreement, it becomes apparent that the EU threat seeks to still punish Israel even if Abbas walks away from a deal.
In any case, on closer inspection, the threat to the Palestinians actually turns out to be just another way of punishing Israel. In the event that the EU withdraws significant amounts of funding from Abbas, thus destabilizing the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and allowing for a strengthening of Hamas and Islamic Jihad there, the price from the growing terror threat would be paid by Israel. It would be paid in the currency of lost Israeli lives. It may be true that there are serious problems with the way the EU funds the PA; as Douglas Murray has written about recently, much of the funding goes toward supporting Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel. Yet, the threatened funding cuts would most likely harm Israel even more, and the Europeans know it. For as Faasborg-Andersen remarked, “I think it is realized in Israel that this money is key to the stability of the West Bank and in Gaza.”
This attitude, which seeks to make life unpleasant for Israelis even while claiming to be evenhanded in also punishing the Palestinians, stems from a perspective that really views Israel as uniquely responsible for the impasse and as such is frankly disinterested in Israel’s requirements. The ambassador betrayed as much in his remarks. With the EU having failed to support Israel’s basic request to be recognized as a Jewish state, Faasborg-Andersen dismissed, “I don’t think we have any clear position on that because we’re not 100% sure what is meant by this concept of a Jewish state.”
When it came to Palestinian demands about settlements, however, then the European ambassador adopted quite another tone. “If the talks are wrecked as a result of an Israeli settlement announcement, then the blame will be put squarely on Israel’s doorstep,” the ambassador declared, “naturally and logically [Israel] will be to blame.” And when he was then asked about the European Union’s double standards in its approach to the settlement issue, Faasborg-Andersen responded, “I don’t see any basis for the allegation that we’re being one-sided and not being even-handed on this issue,” claiming that the EU had also criticized rocket fire from Gaza.
In making this parallel, the ambassador expressed a common yet unfathomable notion that draws a moral equivalence between rockets fired by terrorists with the objective of murdering Israeli civilians and the building of homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem and its suburbs. This itself exposes the very one-sidedness that the ambassador sought to deny by mentioning the rockets. The EU position on settlements is hypocritical for several reasons, not least because of the way in which Brussels has openly adopted one policy on disputed settlements in cases such as Morocco and western Sahara, and quite another on Jewish communities in Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
The European Union’s stance on Israel has become so one-sided that European diplomats expose themselves even while attempting to demonstrate how evenhanded they are. So hypocritical are they that the EU devises measures to punish Israel even while claiming to be punishing the Palestinians.