Israil, Palestine and Europe - a plea for a European Middle-east policy

Article published on May 22, 2002
community published
Article published on May 22, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The European Union must commit itself body and soul to the resolution of the conflict.

Terrible things are happening in the Middle East and Europe must have its say.

Arafat besieged in Ramallah, obliged to live in his West Bank offices, surrounded by Israeli tanks. Arafat forbidden to attend midnight mass in Bethlehem (a symbolic ritual if any exists of his willingness to reconcile the religions). The Israeli government dclaring that Arafat is no longer a partner for forthcoming negociations, considering 'Arafat directly responsible for the wave of attacks and consequently out of the game politically. Israel will have no further contact with him.' Sharon leading a huge demolition project; of Arafat, of all the peace agreements thus far concluded between the Palestinian Authority, the Arab world and Israel. Sharon who will not hear of the eventuality of a Palestinian State, which he considers a blow to Israel's sovereignty. Sharon readopting policies of colonial feudality and apartheid in the Occupied Territories. Bush globally supporting, or in any case failing to condemn the policy. The worst policy imaginable.

Yet we were finally able to hope for peace. 11th September 2001: the United States searched for allies everywhere, waged war on Islamic terrorism, without exception, wished to lead a crusade of the international community against terrorism, with the Arab world as its ally against Islamic fundamentalism. The knock-on effect: Arafat is clearly in league with the Americans against Bin Laden, peace is possible in Palestine. But today the Americans believe they are victorious and have returned to their old ways: America first, the support of Israel reaffirmed against the Arab world, fear of this unknow Arab world.

This step backwards is highly negative, if only because it is based on false assumptions. Firstly, the Americans have not won, they have simply helped to overthrow an already shaky Taliban regime. And they haven't pulled up the official root of their problems, Bin Laden remains unfound. Then they seem to have lost sight of the persistance of the outside world, notably the Arab world, as well as of the disastrous effects that their refusal to commit to the resolution of external conflicts could have on their own soil. Finally they seem to have lost sight of the regimes and democratic, peaceful aspirations existing in the heart of the Arab world.

But all this is not our main point. The worst element in the catastrophic developments of the last few weeks has been the resignation of the international community in general: 'the international community is incapable of assuming its responsibility towards the Israelis and is leaving them to act with impunity. Faced with the violation of all rules of international law, the United States, the European Union and Russia, indeed the entire international community has remained silent.' (Leila Shahid, representative of the Palestinian Authority in France).

The European Union must commit itself body and soul to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It should aspire to be an arbitrator between the two parties, to assure a peaceful mediation ending in an agreement that definitively resolves the problems. And if it is not recognised as such by Israel (who accuse the EU of being pro-Arab and therefore allows itself to suspect all political initiatives on its part), it must at least ensure that it gives its opinion and expresses its position systematically. Even if unheard, it must systematically and strongly condemn the violence and the degradation of the conflict, on the basis of all the agreements signed so far by the two parties, and at least on the basis of the minimalist conclusion of the Michell Commission to end the fighting.

The Union must abandon its political reticence and its diplomatic inferiority complex, it already has confilct resolution to its credit, and successful ones at that. It must rid itself of its guilty feeling regarding the Jewish people: the persecution of peoples is universal. Today the Palestinians are the victims, the Israelis are only the victims of an obsession with security, and the Palestinians are not responsible for the suffering of the Jews in Europe nearly 60 years ago.

The political soul of Europe?

The Union must commit itself on simple grounds: the unequivocal condemnation of violence and terror, the respect of human rights, the right to democratic sovereignty of all peoples, the inalienable right to independence if this is needed. It should have courage in its ideals, which are universal. But it must also respond to the aspirations of both parties to a partnership: Israel as well as Palestine need the help and the support of Europe, it is a decisive benefit. Economic aid for example can be a great catalyst for economic, humanitarian and political progress. Europe's obsession must be to exhort both parties to engage in dialogue. To abandon the excessive neutrality that kills all possibility of arbitration, the excessive international cowardice which ends in the confidence tricks taking place in the UN (noble resolutions voted by all except the United States and Israel, and which therefore remain words on paper).

Today two peoples no longer meet in Palestine, their only relationship is one of blind terror, mutually nourished. The United States seem to be no longer interested in the resolution of this problem, in this area of diplomatic lament; they have strayed from the correct path.

The Union must commit itself to this foreign policy, no other State with such potential influence will do it for us. It must be courageous. Who knows, perhaps it will find there the political soul it has been searching for, at the very moment that it displays its monetary soul ...