European Neighbourhood Policy and Israel
To the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. B.R. Bot
Dear Mr. Bot,
Through this letter we wish to express our concern regarding the European Neighbourhood Policy, especially in its relation to Israel. The EU has recently made public its ‘Strategy Paper for European Neighbourhood Policy”. This policy will provide extensive privileges and possibilities for cooperation in areas such as trade, freedom of movement, cultural and scientific cooperation, etc.
For the 22nd November GAERC meeting of EU ministers of Foreign Affairs the ENP action plans have been tabled, among them the Action Plan for Israel. We have been told that at this stage citizens have no access to the action plans. However, seeing the political context we are deeply concerned about the contents and implications of the action plan for Israel.
At the beginning of Holland’s presidency of the European Union you informed the public of your intention to play an active role in finding a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In anticipation of this role you travelled to the Middle East in May and met Mr. Sharon as well as Mr. Arafat. Since then we have seen the EU verbally admonishing Israel but seemingly rewarding Israel’s misconduct by signing lucrative cooperation agreements with it and offering future prospects of yet more forms of cooperation. During the Dutch EU presidency we have observed the following developments:
– The International Court of Justice (ICJ) declares that the wall constructed by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory is illegal; Israel must not only dismantle the wall but also repair all damage caused by the construction; the world community must ensure that Israel complies with this advice.
– The EU demands that Israel follows up the ICJ advice.
– Israel declares that it will not follow up the ICJ advice; in practice Israel continues to complete the construction of the wall.
– The EU signs a cooperation agreement with Israel on the Galileo project.
– The EU votes for UN/GA resolution A/RES/ES –10/15 which acknowledges the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004 on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
– During your meeting with your Israeli colleague Shalom you informed him that the EU will not support sanctions against Israel in view of Israel’s non-compliance with the UN resolution against the wall.
– The Dutch Government will receive Mr. Sharon whom the Dutch Government has invited for a working visit to the Netherlands.
– Mr Sharon postpones his visit, the reason being that he is too preoccupied by the so-called Gaza “disengagement” plan.
– Israel begins a major offensive in Gaza. As a result of this offensive between 29 September and 15 October 133 Palestinian civilians die, among them 26 children younger than 18 years; 430 persons are wounded; 235 homes are severely damaged, 85 of which are razed to the ground.
– The EU calls for an immediate end to Israel’s military operations in Gaza and says that unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian territory cannot be a substitute for a two-state political solution; the EU will not recognise any changes to the borders as they were before the 1967 Middle East War.
– The advisor to the Israeli government Mr. Weisglass openly states that the disengagement plan is meant to freeze the peace process: “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde, it supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians” (Haaretz 6-10-04). The Israeli government contradicts Mr. Weisglass’ statement and says it still works within the so-called Roadmap to Peace. However, quite contrary to this contradiction, Mr. Sharon calls the Gaza plan Israel’s only plan, and requests his ministers not to mention the Roadmap again (Haaretz 7-9-04).
– EU foreign policy chief Mr. Solana mentions 5 conditions for the EU to support Israel’s “disengagement” plan : It takes place within the context of the roadmap, it represents a step towards a two-state solution, it does not involve a transfer of settlement activity to the West Bank, there is an organized and negotiated hand-over of responsibility to the PNA, and Israel facilitates the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza.
– The EU issues the “Strategy Paper for European Neighbourhood Policy” that offers a framework for political dialogue as well as extensive privileges for the concerned countries
– Prime minister Balkenende refuses to replant an ancient olive tree uprooted by Israel in Palestinian territory. He does however plant an olive tree in Israel.
– The Israeli Knesset votes for Mr.Sharon’s proposal to dismantle the Israeli settlements in Gaza.
– The EU foreign affairs ministers decide on the ENP action plan for Israel in the GAERC meeting of November 22.
Based on the above we conclude that the intentions of the EU presidency concerning the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are highly ambiguous. We observe a discrepancy between the EU’s verbal admonishments of Israel, and the EU’s behaviour, i.e. concluding advantageous cooperation agreements with Israel and having future privileges in the offing. In our view the way Israel has chosen to “disengage” cannot lead to peace. As citizens of Holland and Europe we are deeply concerned with these developments.
In our perception the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now reached a crucial phase. If the world community does not strongly assert itself a Palestinian state will no longer be feasible. Being sliced up into Bantustans Palestine will soon be wiped off the map, while, as a result of their confinement within the perimeter of the wall the Palestinian people will lack sufficient means of existence and be forced into exile like a million of their countrymen did before them. For us, and many others in the Netherlands and Europe this is an unbearable thought. We cannot bear the fact that our leaders bring such a fate onto the Palestinians in our name by failing to act in the name of justice.
We requested the EU before to freeze the Association Agreement and/or the agreement on scientific cooperation with Israel, as a sign that the EU makes demands on Israel. Strengthening the ties with Israel through the European Neighbourhood Policy which will lead to the EU bestowing additional benefits on this country will serve as a moral and material support to Israel’s oppressive policy. Therefore we urge you to withhold advantages to Israel, and to concentrate on political dialogue in combination with measures to exert pressure. We request you to impose conditions and not to embark on lucrative forms of cooperation until Israel abides by the UN resolutions, carries out the ICJ advice, ends the occupation and takes responsibility for the Palestinian refugees.
We assume that the contents of this letter will play a part in the 22 November meeting so that it can thus contribute to your intention to play an active role in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We look forward to your response with information on the European Neighbourhood Policy as it will be agreed on November 22.
Chairman of ECCP
On behalf of ECCP National Platforms, European Jews for Just Peace, Coordination de l’Appel de Strasbourg Network