U.S.-EU crisis is death blow to 'road map'
The crisis between the U.S. and Europe will have profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining the Quartet's effort to impose a solution to the conflict on Israel, and strengthening the Sharon government's opposition to the Quartet "road map."
The crisis between the U.S. and Europe will have profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining the Quartet's effort to impose a solution to the conflict on Israel, and strengthening the Sharon government's opposition to the Quartet "road map" and the prime minister's view that the "Bush framework" is the only relevant diplomatic arena for a political peace process.
The U.S. crisis with France, Germany, and Belgium will extend beyond the boundaries of Europe and the U.S. It already affects Turkey on its Asian border with Iraq. For Israel, the crisis over Iraq is proof that European and European Union thinking is tendentious, based on irrelevant considerations that can complicate problems rather than solve them.
It will now be much easier for Israel to persuade Washington that European representatives cannot be given overdue influence, if they are given any influence at all, in solving the Middle East conflict. It will also strengthen those who argue that any proposal that would send European forces to the conflict as monitors or peacekeeping troops, must be rejected outright.
Israel's negative approach to the Quartet has been felt for some time and intensified in recent months. Which Europe, is what Israeli officials ask - is it the Europe of France and Belgium, or Norway and Greece? Often, Israeli officials refer to Europe with undisguised cynicism, noting that it has not managed to solve a dispute between Spain and Morocco over the uninhabited Parsley Island off Gibraltar, and needed to bring in Washington to find a diplomatic solution, which it did. They point out Europe couldn't solve the Kosovo crisis without the Americans. If Europe was so helpless in the face of a conflict on its own continent, ask Israeli officials, why should we agree to their involvement in our conflict? Does the aid it gives to Arabs and the trade it does with Israel, give it the automatic right to intervene politically?
This negative attitude does not skip over Britain either, despite its alliance with the U.S. on Iraq. Due to what Jerusalem regards as an odd British embargo against it, the United Kingdom is perceived as harming Israel's efforts to conduct its war against terrorism. That was an important factor in the Israeli decision to prevent Palestinians from going to London to a conference on reforms in the Palestinian Authority.
During the Barak administration and following it, an unspoken agreement gradually allowed European representatives into committees negotiating in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, in the Mitchell Committee. But there has been a retreat from that tendency, felt in the meetings Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer held with envoys from Denmark, when it held the rotating presidency of the EU. That anti-European Israeli attitude has since become even more aggressive, and brought up in the meetings Israelis have held in Washington with senior officials.
The Sharon government now speaks about its readiness to accept the principles named by President George W. Bush in his June 24, 2002 speech on the Middle East - but Jerusalem has dropped all reference to the Quartet's road map from its discussion of the diplomatic path ahead. Now Jerusalem wants to explain to the White House and State Department that Bush should not sign onto the road map with Europeans who are obstructing Washington's plans for Iraq.
The opposition to the Quartet's positions resulted in the creation of a professional team to analyze the road map. The team includes representatives from Sharon's bureau, the government, and various professionals including representatives from the intelligence services. Some of those team members have found positive elements in the road map but the developing crisis between the U.S. and Europe has nearly turned opposition to the road map into a matter of principle.
Israel believes there has been a break in the international consensus on the war against international terrorism. But no less important in Israeli eyes is the fact the Europeans are indirectly propping up Saddam Hussein, and by doing so, making it easier for him to aide suicide terrorism against Israel.
The American aspect in the crisis is more complex than it appears in the angry speeches by American officials. The crisis is focused on the question of whether to go to war against Iraq because of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but no less important is European opposition to important principles in the new national defense strategy of the U.S., which makes the war against international terrorism its top priority.
The U.S. was the first victim of Al-Qaida terrorism but it cannot be forgotten that those terrorists were able to set up their cells in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, with relative ease. The American war against international terror will be much harder to conduct because of the hatred some European states are fostering in international opinion against the U.S. Militarily, the U.S. could go it alone in its war against Iraq, but it needs Europe in the war against international terror.