The European Union (EU) is creating diplomatic abominations. The bloc, which emphasizes peacebuilding as the core of its diplomatic agenda, is wasting time repeating selective basics about Israeli colonization without mentioning the Zionist colonization process which started before 1948. Following a recent video conference between the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, and Jordan, the following conclusion was reached: “We concur that any annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would be a violation of international law and imperil the foundations of the peace process.”
EU High Representative Josep Borrell is purportedly concerned about the possible implementation of annexation and how this will affect EU-Israeli relations. Of course, this concern should be taken at face value; so far there have been no repercussions over the Israeli decision to annex over 30 percent of the occupied West Bank. In fact, the European Parliament ratified the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Aviation Agreement with Israel in June, when all attention was focused on whether the US would still lend its support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hailed the ratification of the agreement at a time when Israel, like the rest of the world, is seeking economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The aviation agreement benefiting the EU and Israel includes decreased airfares and increased flight routes facilitating air travel.
It is also, however, supposedly subject to a clause which should render the agreement void: “The Agreement should be implemented in accordance with the Union’s position that the territories which came under Israeli administration in June 1967 are not part of the territory of the State of Israel.”
By now, the gap between EU rhetoric and action seems irreversible.
By now, the gap between EU rhetoric and action seems irreversible. Since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the EU, in line with the diplomatic measures taken by the international community, sought to portray the US as a lone voice standing alongside Israel and against international consensus.
The grotesque fascination with a President blundering on social media and seemingly incapable of comprehending the basics of foreign policy was an asset to further the misinformed concept of an international community abiding by international law, and the US which holds international consensus, in contempt.
Beneath this façade which served to highlight an imaginary divide between the US “Deal of the Century” and the two-state compromise, which the international community still upholds despite it having being declared obsolete, the EU continues to influence diplomacy by generating impunity for Israel.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk has been adamant that the international community should take punitive measures against Israeli annexation. However, the fact that criticism over the failure to take action is directed at the entire international community should speak volumes about the level of international complicity when it comes to preserving Israeli colonialism. It is not just the US that is “actively endorsing and participating in, a flagrant violation of international law.”
So far, the strongest evidence of EU opposition to Israel’s annexation plans was a letter signed by 1,080 European parliamentarians, urging European leaders to “act decisively” and “to safeguard the prospects of the two-state solution and a just resolution to the conflict.” The letter has all the markings of activism beholden to higher powers; an absence of assertion when it comes to Palestinian rights that also reflects upon the political absurdity practiced by the bloc. The US may be overtly supporting Israel, but the EU’s persistent framing of the colonizer and the colonized as equally responsible parties is a glaring example of false equivalence and a clear admission of upholding and disseminating the Israeli colonial narrative.
The EU’s persistent framing of the colonizer and the colonized as equally responsible parties is a glaring example of false equivalence.
If the EU possessed any political integrity, such a compromised letter from EU parliamentarians would have been unnecessary. Individual EU leaders have issued warnings to Netanyahu against annexation; the latest at the time of writing being French President Emmanuel Macron.
Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) recently stated that the annexation plans might not be implemented, due to possible Palestinian uprisings and diplomatic consequences for Israel, both regionally and internationally. Netanyahu, however, has long boasted about the normalization of ties with Arab and Gulf states, and how the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle has been granted scant attention in recent years.
Either way the scenario pans out, the EU, like the rest of the international community, has committed unpardonable blunders. As the aviation agreement signals, the EU has normalized Israeli violations of international law and is also politically unconcerned with annexation consequences, as long as trade agreements are signed and implemented.
If the EU wanted to uphold international law, it could have contributed by halting all agreements with Israel even before the annexation plans became public. Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation is also subject to the 1967 borders but with a caveat that works in Israel’s favor. The text partly reads, “In accordance with EU policy, this agreement shall not apply to the geographic areas that came under the administration of the State of Israel after 5 June 1967. This position should not be construed as prejudicing Israel’s principled position on this matter.” If the clause does not influence Israeli colonial politics, the clause itself is rendered void, and so does the EU’s pontificating on international law and peacebuilding for that matter.
The EU has powerful tools at hand which could alter the global consensus normalizing Israel’s colonization process, yet it prefers to keep its profitable trade deals with Israel intact.
How can the EU be considered a potential diplomatic ally for Palestine when its recommendations to counter annexation have so far only resulted in discussing a possible halting of diplomatic visits to Israel? The EU has powerful tools at hand which could alter the global consensus normalizing Israel’s colonization process, yet it prefers to keep its profitable trade deals with Israel intact.
After all, as long as the Palestinian Authority remains dedicated to pursuing the corrupt diplomats presiding over international law, and as long as accountability towards international law at higher echelons remains non-existent, what incentive does the EU have to uphold human rights principles? International politics have failed Palestinians by upholding the lucrative business of Israeli colonialism.
It is not only through the ratification of the aviation agreement that the EU has followed suit. Rather, the ratification brings earlier impunity into a sinister perspective; that of the EU offering tacit support to Israel while expecting to maintain its status of a pseudo-pro-Palestine diplomatic partner.