MEMORANDUM: ISRAEL AND THE EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY
• On 10th April 2002, during the siege of Palestine, while the offensive labelled “Ramparts” was being carried out by the Israeli occupying forces, the European Parliament recommended by a majority vote the suspension of the Association Agreement between the EU and Israel. The Parliament based itself explicitly on Article 2 of that, in which the parties pledged to respect human rights.
In addition, this Association Agreement was written into the Barcelona Process. This foresaw notably the creation of a free exchange zone by 2010 between the EU and the countries called “Mediterranean third countries”, based on what actually promised to be a serious prospect of peace. Moreover, the Barcelona Process adopted the principles of international law in its charter.
The European Parliament subsequently renewed, in vain, that recommendation, given the continuation of violations by Israel of humanitarian law, of international law, and of its international obligations.
• This was in vain because, contrary to European democracy and the recommendations of those elected by the people of Europe, the European Union Council and the European Commission have demonstrated a disturbing contempt for such proposed lines of action.
The Commission, like the Council, base themselves on a certain number of principles which have, however, proved their vacuity:
1. They persist in an even-handed approach to “Israeli violence” and “Palestinian violence”. This is to ignore the evidence; to put an end to the violence one needs to stop it at its source: to end the occupation, the colonisation, the Wall of annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories, the Wall of ghettoisation and transfer of the Palestinian population, the daily terror imposed by a colonial war. Only peace based on the law will guarantee everyone’s security.
2. They persist in defending solely “dialogue”, in order to convince. This is to deliberately ignore history, and in particular recent history, which has demonstrated its ineffectiveness under the circumstances.
3. They claim that such a suspension, which besides is clearly less a sanction than a suspension of privilege, would unjustly sanction the whole of Israeli society. This is to ignore the fact that every democratic prospect in Israeli society is suffering, in contrast to the impunity of its leaders. Thus, for example, the imprisonment of the “refuseniks”. Thus also the polarisation of the political debate in Israel, between the right, the extreme right and the settlers. Thus also the pursuit of a war, due to which both societies, though certainly not in equal measure, suffer human and economic costs.
4. They claim, finally, that it would be possible to disconnect the economic process and the political process of Barcelona. We won’t insult them by suggesting that they could possibly actually believe in such a chimera.
• But the Commission and the European Council, which have abstained from protecting the Palestinian people in any way despite the obligations on each Member State as High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, are not content to scorn the recommendations of the European Parliament. They do worse.
– Through the renewal in the summer of 2003 of the agricultural agreements which give new advantages to Israel;
– Though its reintegration, also in summer 2003, in the 6th Framework Programme of research and technological development.
– Then, in July 2004, by the signature of the Galileo agreement, the European programme of navigation by satellite, of which the possible military uses are well known.
This is inadmissible. Unjust, and dangerous.
• On November 5th, the European Union is examining the integration of several countries under what it calls “the neighbourhood policy”, based on a 50-page report presented by the Commission and dated 29th September 2004. Included in these countries is Israel. Such a position is unacceptable.
What does this mean, in effect? Nothing less than a new architecture of financial mechanisms for the period 2007-2013. In fact, the “European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument” (ENPI) is “to replace the thematic and geographic programmes covering the countries concerned”, and is based on joint programmes beyond the frontiers of the European Union.
– This is a question of “developing an area of prosperity and close cooperation involving the European Union and the neighbouring countries.” A laudable intention. However, how can an “area of prosperity” seriously be envisaged in a region at war without putting an end to the war? How is it possible to speak of prosperity when the Israeli war arsenal – using means from massive destructions to assassinations and imprisonment of the vibrant forces of Palestinian society, of the building of walls to the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, of the blockages at check-points – constrains the majority of the Palestinian population to unemployment, poverty and dependence on international humanitarian aid of which the EU is the primary contributor?
– In spite of this established fact, the European Union is supposed to be trying to develop with the countries concerned “an area of good ‘neighbourliness’”, which “requires resources to promote crossborder cooperation between partner countries and the Member States so as to promote integrated regional development among border region”. To this end, “Article 1 provides, for the first time in an assistance regulation, that assistance can be used for the common benefit of Member States and partner countries”. Nothing less, then, than de facto economic integration into the European Union.
– According to Article 2, this “neighbourhood policy” establishes a link between these aims and the existing agreements. Prominent among these, therefore, are the Association Agreements. Article 3 itself underlines the nature of the neighbourhood policy instrument as being policy-driven.
The step being undertaken, therefore, is considerable, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
– Article 8, defines the geographic criteria of eligibility for the European neighbourhood policy. It concerns all the regions sharing land or sea frontiers with the European Union or part of the same maritime basin. Other countries could also be concerned.
• What about Israel, then, according to the Commission’s recommendations? Its services have produced on May 12th 2004 a “working document”, a “report on Israel”, within the framework of the “European neighbourhood policy” (COM (2004) 373 final).
– The introduction emphasizes that after enlargement on May 1st 2004 to ten new Member States, “the EU’s external borders will not become new dividing lines but the focus of enhanced co-operation”. One can be surprised, therefore, if not revolted, that the same introduction specifies that “the European Neighbourhood Policy sets ambitious objectives for partnership with neighbouring countries based on strong commitments to shared values and political, economic and institutional reforms”.
What “shared values” does this mean, in the circumstances? Of war? Of occupation? Of violations of human rights? Of violations of international law?
– Nevertheless, those who drafted the document invite the partner countries “to enter into closer political, economic and cultural relations with the EU, to enhance cross border cooperation and to share responsibility in conflict prevention and resolution”. It is obvious that the drafters of the policy have lost their way.
– Indeed, they continue: “The Union offers the prospect of a stake in its Internal Market and of further economic integration”.
It is a matter, then, of going well beyond the framework of the Association Agreement.
– The authors of the Commission’s report have this to say when it comes to the existing relations between the EU and Israel, and the situation of Israel itself. They underline that the country does not have a written constitution. Therefore it is not necessary to add borders defined by a constitution. This raises the problem of territory. The international community, basing itself on the principle of illegality of the acquisition of territory by force and on the resolutions of the UN and its Security Council, does not recognise the legality of the Israeli colonies in occupied Palestine. This position of principle and of the respect for the law, which has been adopted by the EU, and which has been rejected by successive Israeli governments, becomes a matter of contention. It is based on this that the EU rejects the principle of including Israeli products from the colonies in the policy of advantages permitted by the Association Agreement.
The Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs argues in favour of false solutions of compromise, which do not explicitly indicate the illegality of the colonies. All that remains is for the Israeli firms not to deprive themselves from indicating as “made in Israel” products that are made in these illegal colonies, in order to export them illegally to Europe as preferential products.
Let us note, from this point of view, that while refusing any role for the EU in the elaboration and implementation of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli governments are aiming for no less than a solid economic attaching of Israel to the EU.
– Elsewhere, the authors of the report satisfy themselves that Israel “is a parliamentary democracy”, guaranteeing notably the freedom of political parties. Taking into account the lack of attention to the occupation in the report, must one conclude that, according to the promoters of this project, if an occupation of a foreign land and its people is said to be founded on the consent of the majority of the occupying state, it could from then onwards be considered as a “democratic occupation”?
– One part of the report (section 2.2) is devoted to human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Israel has ratified the core UN Human Rights Conventions, except the two Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.” Is this just a trifle? The abolition of torture, a crucial advance of international humanitarian law – is not this also a basic ethical human principle? Torture is indeed used at present in the Israeli prisons against Palestinian political prisoners, of which there are 7,500 currently, including several hundred children.
On the obligations related, from this point of view and more broadly, to the Fourth Geneva Convention in relation to occupied peoples and territories, the report is content to mention the difference between the international community and Israel, which refuses to recognise its applicability to occupied Palestine.
The text mentions the discriminations which hit the “Arab minority” of Israel, such as the “Or Commission” itself recognised, and the concerns of the UN HCR in relation to this.
The text also recalls that “about 100,000 Arabs (Bedouins), mostly in the Negev, live in villages considered illegal by the State.” What are “non-recognised villages”? Whatever the case, must this situation be considered as simply commonplace, of no importance when viewed in the light of shared values?
– The text addresses also “regional and international stability” (section 2.3). It emphasises that “Israel is an active member of the United Nations” but “is not a signatory of the Treaty of Non-Proliferation”. Curiously, no conclusion is drawn from this. In the same way, nothing is said about the consequences of the continuation of the occupation, of the colonisation, nor of the lack of sorting out of the refugees’ situation.
Eliminating, in the wording, the responsibility for this policy in the continuation of the conflict, the text uses the euphemism that “Israel’s overall political and economic situation is affected by the continuing conflict with the Palestinians and the state of relations with the Arab world in general.” As regards the insecurity of the region and in Israel, the text puts forward that “some of the measures taken by Israel in response to this situation have been criticised by the UN and the EU as disproportionate or incompatible with its obligations under international law.” This persistent type of response is an inversion of the terms of the conflict: this could not be the result of the occupation, which is not mentioned; it is due to the fact of the Palestinian violence to which the Israeli measures are responding, even if disproportionately. To persist with this inversion of the terms of the conflict results in preventing the emergence of a political solution to the conflict.
– Concerning the Wall, the report is written in terms which the European Union should never have been able to do after the decision of the International Court of Justice. For example, it mentions the “separation barrier” even though the Wall does not separate Israel and Palestine along the armistice line of 1949 (the “green line”), but separates the Palestinian population from themselves. Without mentioning the confiscation of lands and water resources, nor the eradication of hectares of cultivation and trees, the report emphasises nevertheless that “the separation barrier and various closures and restrictions existing in the West Bank and Gaza, have severely affected the distribution of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population.” The text goes so far as to dare to put forward that “Israel has made some adjustments to the route of the barrier in response to these concerns.” In passing, one notes that it does not in any way put pressure on Israel by calling into question the principle. Nor moreover to modify substantially the route or to repair any of the damage committed in order to construct it. The text recalls in this respect the position of the European Union taken in March 2004 from the point of view of security.
On this issue, the International Court of Justice has taken a position on July 9th. Recalling the rights of peoples, and specifically the Palestinian people, to self-determination, recalling the obligations of an occupying force in occupied territory, it characterises the Wall as illegal, recommends its dismantlement, and calls on the international community to take up its responsibilities in the matter.
The 25 Member States of the European Union, at the General Assembly of the UN, have adopted this recommendation. As a result, the European Union has a number of obligations.
Instead of putting them into practice, will it prefer to give a bonus to the occupation, to the colonial war, and send this message to the Israeli government, by integrating Israel in the “European neighbourhood policy”?
This would be a really bad message for the Palestinian people. It would be a very bad message for those Israeli citizens who, under peril of their liberty, are battling for the end of the occupation and the dismantling of the Wall. It would be a really bad message for democracy in Europe. It would be a really bad message for the future of international law. It would be a very bad message for those who still hope for a just peace between Israel and Palestine, in other words, a peace based on law, on mutual respect and one which is sustainable. It would be a very bad message for our common future in the Mediterranean.
And we cannot accept it.
Europe would bring honour to itself, on the contrary, if it did the useful work of promoting the law in order to promote peace and hence to give also a chance to Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, which from then on would make more solid a common future.