EU-backed French Peace Initiative Constitutes a Vote of No-confidence in Netanyahu

Indeed, it's hard to understand how advancing the settlement enterprise in isolated areas of the West Bank accords with advancing a two-state solution.

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Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 13, 2016.
Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 13, 2016.Credit: Ronen Zvulin, Reuters

Israel’s government is expected to rack up a rare achievement today: It has succeeded in uniting all 28 members of the European Union behind a joint diplomatic declaration. The EU foreign ministers’ summit that will convene in Brussels is expected to back the French peace initiative, which includes convening an international conference attended by both Israel and the Palestinians by the end of the year.

Israel’s opposition to this initiative, which has the support of both the United States and Russia, and its efforts to sabotage the French move merely underscore its isolation. This failure comes on top of its failed attempt to thwart an EU decision on labeling products of the settlements, as well as EU members’ support for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on preparing a “blacklist” of companies operating in the settlements.

In response to a statement published in late 2011 that denounced Israel’s settlement policy and attacks by settlers on Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry, then headed by Avigdor Lieberman, declared that Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had “made themselves irrelevant.” Now, the French/European initiative has been launched, bypassing Israel, and made Israel irrelevant to this diplomatic process. This initiative constitutes a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertions of his desire to advance direct negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state solution and his yearning for a regional agreement in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative.

A senior government official, speaking about Israel’s effort to torpedo the French initiative, said that “many countries simply don’t understand our position” (as reported by Barak Ravid in Monday's Haaretz). Indeed, it’s hard to understand how advancing the settlement enterprise in isolated areas of the West Bank accords with advancing a two-state solution.

The cabinet’s decision on Monday to give another 82 million shekels ($21 million) of taxpayer money to the settlements is fresh evidence of the fact that Netanyahu’s statements about peace are nothing more than lip service the prime minister is paying to the international community. It’s true, as the cabinet’s decision stated, that “Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria experience a unique security situation on a daily basis because of their geographic location and the fabric of life in the area.” There could be no clearer statement of the fact that the settlements constitute an economic and security burden. This is another reason to seek a diplomatic agreement that would enable settlers living in the heart of a Palestinian population that has spent almost 50 years under occupation to finally be returned to Israel.

Indeed, as the cabinet decision stated, the worsening security situation has an impact on many aspects of life, including psychological and social aspects. Therefore, we must welcome any initiative aimed at halting this deterioration and enabling residents of the settlements to develop new lives inside their country’s sovereign borders.

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