Opinion |

In the EU's Fantasy of 'Shared Values' With Israel, the Palestinians Don't Exist

The PLO asks the EU: Do you stand by your representative's praise for Israel's record on 'human rights' and 'the rule of law'? By his partying with Israeli extremists? Who actually speaks for your policy on Israel and Palestine?

Nabil Sha'ath
Nabil Sha'ath
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Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium. Dec. 11, 2017
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium. Dec. 11, 2017Credit: Bloomberg
Nabil Sha'ath
Nabil Sha'ath

"We [the EU and Israel] share the same values. We believe in democracy, the rule of law and human rights. There are fundamental values that we share."

That was the peak of the recent interview in Haaretz with the EU Representative to Israel, Mr. Emanuele Giaufet.

The message delivered by the Italian-born European diplomat was simple and consistent: Europe builds a relationship with Israel regardless of the systematic Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. In other words: carte blanche for Israel.

Palestinian Bedouin children play under a bridge near their village, Khan al-Ahmaron, which is under an Israeli demolition order despite appeals by EU governments. May 30, 2018 Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

He suggests a relationship between Europe and Israel based on the fantasy of "shared values," but when it comes to Palestinians he only talks about "realism": They have to wait until there is a two-state solution. In the meanwhile Israel will continue its violations and Europe will continue to cooperate with the Israeli government.

Evidently when any Palestinian hears an international representative praising Israel for its support for "human rights" or "the rule of law" could only believe that this representative has preferred to ignore the situation of the Palestinian people. Put it in simple terms: Palestinian human rights don’t count. The grave Israeli violations of International Humanitarian Law become, according to the EU representative, "limited diplomatic disagreements," that, as stated in the Haaretz report, "are insignificant compared to the cooperation away from the spotlights."

I’m aware the views expressed by Mr. Giaufet don’t represent those of all European countries or leaders. I’ve met responsible European diplomats who have done their best in order to balance between their relationships with Israel and the realities of Israel's behavior on the ground.

His statements also contrast with the work of several European diplomats in Palestine that continue to report on the situation on the ground. Whoever reads the annual Heads of Missions Report on Jerusalem, a pure European document, understands that there are grave Israeli violations of International Humanitarian Law taking place. But Brussels has consistently ignored the recommendations of the report and people like Mr. Giaufet are keen to tell Israel that no action will ever be taken.

The online interview with the EU representative showed pictures from social media where Mr. Giaufet proudly thanks and appreciates meetings with the crème of the crème of Israeli extremists: From people who have called for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, reposted calls for the genocide of Palestinian women, the annexation of occupied territory, the change of the status quo in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Needless to say, settlers appear within this "select group."

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz with EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret during Europe Day, May 9, 2018.Credit: Ariel Zandberg / EU mission to Israel Facebook page

On the other side, the European Union, and its member states, keep a strict code of engagement with the people under occupation, the Palestinians. Their relations with the Palestinian government are based on the two-state solution and the commitment to the Quartet Principles.

But those principles also include a full cessation of Israeli settlement activity, lifting of checkpoints and the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Occupied East Jerusalem. According to the policy defended by Mr. Giaufet, none of those conditions apply as a pre-requisite for EU – Israel relations. Israeli violations of those principles, including international law, become "limited diplomatic disagreements."

Let us state certain facts: the two-state solution is not "something that the parties have created themselves," as Mr. Giaufet said. It is, in essence, the core of European policy that since the Brussels Declaration of November 6th 1973 have clearly stated support for UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, the need to end Israel’s territorial occupation that began in 1967 and the recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people.

For the Palestinians to accept the two-state solution was eventually to adopt an international position, mainly European, which in effect means a painful and historic compromise: Recognition of Israel over 78% of historic Palestine.

The Israeli government still refuses to endorse the two-state solution.

And as some European diplomats have complained about using the names of some historic Palestinians for Palestinian schools, they have no problem praising their meetings with those Israelis responsible for ongoing crimes and violations against the Palestinian people.

A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: "EU recognize Palestine" sponsored by the U.S. NGO Avaaz.org, flies in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. September 12, 2011Credit: AFP

While we continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with our European partners, and we fully appreciate the contributions made by Europe to the development of our institutions, it is important to emphasize that as far as the European Union and some of its members don’t match their policies with concrete actions, the prospects for a just and lasting peace will continue to disappear.

We are neighbors of Europe and therefore we understand that a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians would have a tremendous impact not only in the Middle East but also in Europe. But this is not going to happen as long as Israel continues to be treated as a state above the law.

How could anyone promote policies between the European Union and Israel while ignoring the reality of Palestine and the rights of the Palestinians?

As Mr. Giaufet is proud of providing cooperation to ministers that have clear agendas to pulverize the rights of the Palestinian people, it is becoming clear that the European policies of "differentiation" between Israel and the territory it occupies since 1967 are ineffective. No matter how extremist the Israeli government might be, Mr. Giaufet has been clear: The EU won't lay down any red lines, but rather will see "the need to adapt to the current situation."

Here's a reminder: Colonial settlements don’t grow alone. They’re the outcome of the policies pushed by the same decision makers that the European Union have been "adapting to." It goes from PM Netanyahu to Naftali Bennet, Uri Ariel, Ayelet Shaked, Yisrael Katz, Ofer Akunis and even Mr. Steinitz, who just sent the European Union to "a thousand hells" for an extremely diplomatic European statement on Israel’s persecution of civil society organizations and human rights’ defenders.

We would have expected that at a moment where President Donald Trump's administration is encouraging Israeli crimes and violations, the European Union, and its member states, would respond by recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders and taking concrete steps in order to implement their own policies when it comes to Israel and its colonial-settlement enterprise.

All that Palestine asks from Europe is to be consistent with its policies and values when it comes to Israel and its colonial-settlement enterprise.

But there you go. The EU Representative thinks that Israel and the EU share the values of human rights and the rule of law. His message to the Palestinian people could not be clearer: No matter the amount of Israeli violations of international law, Israel will continue to be granted carte blanche.

We refuse to believe that this is the European Union’ official position, and we expect a clear response from Brussels.

Dr. Nabil Sha'ath is the international relations adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and was Palestinian foreign minister between 1994 and 2005

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