The Europe-Israel Alliance:
Where Politics and Economics Do Not Meet

Introduction
Europe & Middle East
Israel & EU: Economic Allies
European Platforms on Arab-Israeli Peace
Economic Sanctions
EU & Current Peacemaking
Conclusion


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European Platforms on Arab-Israeli Peace

Since the 1970s, the European bloc has taken positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict which differ sharply with American Middle East policy and which have led most Israeli leaders and the Israeli polity to view Europe as a biased party in the search for Middle East peace. Although the Europeans recognize the need for Israeli security, for the most part Europe has adopted the Arab negotiating position and has not balanced its criticism of Israeli actions with criticism of Arab actions.

For example, in the European worldview, only a "balanced and comprehensive" settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict with an independent Palestinian state as its centerpiece would bring peace and prosperity to the region and guarantee the stability of Middle East oil supplies.
"...the European bloc has taken positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict . . . which have led most Israeli leaders and the Israeli polity to view Europe as a biased party in the search for Middle East peace."
Europe has long held that Israeli settlements are in contravention of international law and counterproductive to peace. And, the Europeans supported a negotiating role for the PLO when it was still a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel.

In further consonance with the Arab negotiating position, Europe does not accept Israeli sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem. It has repeatedly stated that "East Jerusalem is subject to the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and is therefore not under Israeli sovereignty. The Union asserts that the Fourth Geneva Convention is fully applicable to East Jerusalem, as it is to other territories under occupation* (In 1995, Europe boycotted Israel’s Jerusalem 3000 celebrations.)

Whereas Europe has regularly condemned various Israeli activities, it has been less than emphatic in condemning Arab terrorism, the Arab boycott and other hostile Arab activities over the years.

In the wake of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Europe feared oil shortages and began to take an increased policy interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Seeking to appease the Arab oil states, the foreign ministers of the European Economic Community (EEC) issued a declaration in November 1973 that reaffirmed the principles of UN Resolution 242 but also added "recognition that in the establishment of a just and lasting peace account must be taken of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.’

The Europeans took their position a step further in June 1977 when the European Council issued a declaration stating that "a solution to the conflict in the Middle East will be possible only if the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to give effective expression to its national identity is translated into fact, which would take into account the need for a homeland for the Palestinian people...."

The European Community crystallized its stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict and signaled its desire to become more involved in the peacemaking process with the Venice Declaration of June 13, 1980. Considered the European response to the American-brokered Camp David Accords, the Venice Declaration proposed a "special role" for the Europeans in the pursuit of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement.

The Declaration went beyond previous European statements in that it called for self-determination for the Palestinians and articulated a role for the PLO in the negotiations. It stated:

"A just solution must finally be found to the Palestinian problem, which is not simply one of refugees. The Palestinian people... must be placed in a position, by an appropriate process defined within the framework of the comprehensive peace settlement, to exercise fully its right to self-determination.... These principles apply to all the parties concerned, and thus: the Palestinian people, and to the PLO, which will have to be associated with the negotiations."

The policy declaration also stated that the EC would "not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem" and maintained that "settlements, as well as modifications in population and property in the occupied Arab territories, are illegal under international law"

"Whereas Europe has regularly condemned various Israeli activities, it has been less than emphatic in condemning Arab terrorism, the Arab boycott and other hostile Arab activities over the years."

The Israeli Government flatly rejected and denounced the Venice Declaration on the grounds that it called on Israel to negotiate with the PLO, which at that time was a terrorist organization that called for the destruction of Israel. Israel also opposed the Declaration in that it spelled out its own formula for resolving the conflict rather than calling on the parties to resolve the issue amongst themselves. The European statement clashed with American Middle East policy for the same reasons.

In the late 1980s, Europe began to take a more assertive role in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. In the Brussels Declaration of February 1987, the EC formally supported the convening of an international conference for Middle East peace under United Nations auspices. Five months later, in the Copenhagen Declaration, the EC called such an international conference "the only formula which would allow the peace process in the region to move forward?’

Although it continues to support a UN-sponsored international conference, the European Union endorsed the 1991 Madrid peace conference and its subsequent negotiating tracks. The EU is deeply involved in the multilateral track, serving as chair of the Regional Economic Development Working Group and participating in the Arms Control Working Group. It co.-organizes activities on the other working groups of water, environment and refugees and has funded a large number of multilateral activities. At this writing, due to the lack of progress in the peace process, the Arab states have essentially frozen the multilateral track. Given its leadership and commitment of financial resources in this track, the EU is worried over the current stalemate.

* The United States also does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem.

 

Next: Economic Sanctions


This report was published in August 1998

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