EDITOR: Symptoms of a deep-reaching disease
In an article below, Michael Sfard connects the Israeli government campaigns against the social protest, and the civil rights organisations fighting the occupation’s brutalities. Sfard is hardly an anti-Zionist – he is part of the heart of Zionism, but even for him, this government has crossed all the red lines. Neither is Sternhell an anti-Zionist, of course. They are both deeply troubled by what is going on.
Attacks against domestic political opposition and international aid organizations are both symptoms of the same disease.
By Michael Sfard Jul.25, 2012
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to grasp that Israel’s democracy is under attack. The reality around us is rife with undeniable evidence.
There has been a wave of legislation designed to confine public discourse and limit political freedom of action (such as the “Naqba law,” the law banning support of boycotts and proposals for loyalty laws). The government has incited against human rights organizations, presenting them as traitorous, anti-Israel subversives and fellow travelers with terror. There has been an effort to derail funding received by such organizations (both through legislation and direct appeals to donors). There have been efforts to deter protesters at Sheikh Jarrah, al-Arakib and Rothschild Boulevard (such as mass arrests on false pretenses, summonses to protest organizers to come for “discussions” held with the police or Shin Bet security agency, police violence and the enforcement of draconian restrictions against the protesters).
We might also add to this list a mass publication newspaper which did not hesitate to publish an altered suicide letter written by a demonstrators, expunging from it the lines that cast blame on a the leader the newspaper serves and supports as a mouthpiece. Faced with such a record of evidence, even Dr. Watson would draw the obvious conclusion: a plot has been hatched to dismantle Israel’s democracy, and erect in its stead a kind of nominal, “Putinist” democracy in which dissenters have no option other than to give up the ghost and join the majority’s bandwagon.
This surfeit of data has recently included one new, classic symptom of democratic collapse: a campaign of government intimidation directed against international humanitarian aid organizations.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, sent a letter to the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs demanding that the status of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories be “regularized” (Haaretz, July 15). OCHA coordinates activities undertaken by dozens of international humanitarian organizations and relief agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These organizations feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, help create employment opportunities and, more than anything, rebuild the destruction left behind by Israel each time it launches one of its military operations.
In recent years, OCHA’s work has focused on humanitarian matters and the work of international organizations in East Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Area “C,” where Israel retains civil administrative powers. In both places, Israel pursues planning policies aimed at choking off Palestinian life and reducing its presence as much as possible so these areas can be used for Israeli purposes.
International aid organizations impede the fulfillment of this goal, since their basis of action is humanitarian need (such as providing tents, water and electricity), and they regularly supply what the Israel Defense Forces take away. Thus they make it possible for Palestinians to remain on their lands.
OCHA does not operate on the ground. It is a coordinating and reporting agency. Its work is considered exemplary, owing partly to its precise, comprehensive reports that are disseminated to the diplomatic community. Such success, accompanied by efforts undertaken by some of the aid organizations to effect deep change, change that would remove the crying need for humanitarian assistance ¬ or, put differently, that would alter the discriminatory, abusive policies of the Civil Administration ¬ is precisely what has upset Israeli officials such as Prosor.
At present, Israel’s diplomatic finesse is determined by such refined gentlemen as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (he who would lower the chair of the Turkish ambassador). In disgracefully obsequious fashion, the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, has acceded to the settlers’ dictates. Israel’s response to the activities of aid organizations which, in lieu of the Civil Administration, fund basic needs of West Bank and Gaza Strip residents, is tantamount to a kick in the teeth.
Alongside Prosor’s letter to the UN, in recent weeks various employees of foreign aid organizations have been summoned to meetings with the Civil Administration’s coordination office. During these meetings, they have been required to relay details about their work. They have been told their activity is illegal and that they could be prosecuted. Many organizations have faced a regime of red tape after submitting requests for work visa for members of their staff.
When they tried to clarify why visas are withheld, they received complaints and threats, as though the continuation of their work was in doubt.
Underlying Israel’s threats to the community of international aid organizations in the territories is the demand that they refrain from the conferral of assistance that helps local populations remain where they are, on their lands. There is a real risk that humanitarian aid workers will be expelled by the government of Israel. Should this happen, Israel would join Sudan, which acted similarly when its President Omar al-Bashir was accused of crimes against humanity.
That is a sobering scenario.
The same approach that seeks to reduce the scale of civil protest against the government’s policy,¬ the same approach of summoning activists for “discussions,” of outlawing boycotts and of defunding dissenters, is the approach which seeks to control the work done by those who proffer humanitarian aid in the territories. The attacks against domestic political opposition and the assault on international aid organizations are both symptoms of the same disease.
The writer is an attorney specializing in international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Palestine jailed, by Carlos Latuff
The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university epitomizes the government’s warped modes of thought and action.
By Zeev Sternhell Jul.25, 2012
Ariel, the new university town, is the symbol of Israel and its true showcase. The settlement, which lies some 20 kilometers east of the Green Line, was from the start intended to drive a wedge into the heart of the West Bank so that it would be impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state there. The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university is a direct continuation of this goal, and epitomizes the government’s warped modes of thought and action.
The college also demonstrates Israel’s real order of priorities. Its status was changed arrogantly, via a process that rode roughshod over academic rules and blatantly ignored the accepted criteria for Israeli universities.
But what Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar did should not be viewed as ordinary political corruption. They were not merely trying to buy the votes of Likud party activists in the territories; what they wanted was to do their bit toward annexing the West Bank.
To that end, no price was deemed too high. For everyone knows that building a university from scratch requires enormous resources in terms of both money and manpower. Everyone also understands that a university in Ariel will drag the entire system down and be a stain on the reputation of Israeli science and research.
The establishment of an academic institution by the settlement organization known as the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education – a body whose very existence shows contempt for the Israeli academic world – will also provide an opening and a pretext for a widespread international boycott. Until now, every attempt to boycott Israeli academic institutions has failed, thanks to the personal stature of Israeli scholars. But the truth is that it was the left that successfully blocked and repulsed these boycotts. The time has now come to put this mission in the hands of the new university and its patrons.
It would be interesting to know how former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who headed the committee that recently concluded the West Bank isn’t occupied territory, would answer the two questions he has so far overlooked: What weight should the desires of the occupied population be given in determining the status of the territories? And from what source does the occupier derive the authority to ride roughshod over this population’s right to self-determination?
The government doesn’t have enough money to house the homeless, nor will it in the future, because from the nationalist standpoint, they are useless people. But every family in the outpost of Migron will cost the taxpayer almost three quarters of a million shekels to relocate, because in the Likud’s eyes, this is the true meaning of Zionism.
Steinitz and Sa’ar did not enter the Knesset and the cabinet in order to make peace, to preserve the system of higher education created through generations of effort, or to establish a real welfare state, but rather to gain control of the entire Land of Israel. They are not merely afraid of the settlers; they themselves are settlers.
One cannot say the same about the opposition, but this is precisely where the true problem of Israeli politics lies: Its leaders do not have the courage to sever themselves from the past. All those who oppose the government are aware that the right is marching Israel toward a binational state that will destroy its raison d’etre. But they are all captives of the same wretched idee fixe which holds that there is a consensus about the territories, and therefore, anyone who wishes to survive politically cannot reject the settlements.
The founding father of this concept was Shimon Peres, during whose term as defense minister in the 1970s the settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus, which paved the road to the settlement of this part of the West Bank, was established. Defense Minister Ehud Barak – Peres’ successor as Labor Party chairman and the man to whom we owe the second intifada – followed in his footsteps, and now the torch has been passed to current Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich.
Why did this talented woman have to burden herself with all the giant mistakes and failures made by the party over generations? Why did she decide to march down the path charted by those two defectors from Labor, at a time when both political logic and moral duty demand an unambiguous, comprehensive and determined stance against the right? Cowardice, even when it is wrapped in a cloak of sophistication and so-called pragmatism, has never been considered a recipe for victory.
EDITOR: Another nail in the two-state ‘solution’
Read below the ex-Ambassador to Israel, writing quite clearly about the unlikelihood of this solution being realised.
In an op-ed in a British magazine, former envoy to Israel and Saudi Arabia lays down ten reasons the chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are slim.
Former ambassador Tom Phillips. Photo by Guy Raivitz
Tom Philips, one of the most influential Western diplomats to serve in the Middle East in recent years, suggests that the European Union rethink its aid to the Palestinian Authority, so as to place the whole burden of responsibility for the occupation on Israel – a load the Israeli public is not likely to succeed in carrying.
In a long op-ed published in the British monthly “Prospect Magazine,”Philips laid down ten rules which paint a grim picture of the chances of reaching an implementing a peace agreement to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Philips wrote that he cannot imagine an American government will come about that will be able to do what is required in order to pressure Israel into doing what is in its best interest.
He doesn’t think there will be Israeli government able to rein in the settlement movement in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in order to make a two state solution feasible.
Nor does Philips believe that no Palestinian leadership will be able to make the necessary compromises on the “Right of Return,” without which no Israeli would make any kind of peace agreement.
The ambassador, who served as a delegate in the British embassy in Israel during the 1990′s, also doubts that Arab leadership will be able to transform the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 into a government program that supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The retired European diplomat criticizes the European Union for not using the tools in its possession for initiating the diplomatic process. Philips wrote that over the years, the EU did not strategically use its leverage as chief importer of Israeli goods and economic partner. At the same time, Europe was unsuccessful at containing other radical factions in the area. Philips suggests that the focus be on a transatlantic agreement that would be based on the big carrots needed for encouraging the two sides to move forward, and the big stick, necessary in case they fail to make progress.
Philips claims that the United States favors Israel, and therefore can never be a true, unbiased mediator. He writes that Yasser Arafat was justifiably suspicious of the Americans, as they “cooked-up” the Camp David Accords in advance with Israel, in 2000.
According to Philips, President Obama must prove that he can be the exception to the rule in the subject, and that there is hope that should be be reelected, he will increase the pressure on Israel.
Philip notes that the exorbitant amounts of money donated to the Palestinian Authority by foreign powers create dependence. He claims that the Arabs believe that the Israeli needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinian side, because, as in the days of the crusader kingdoms, if Israel fails to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and continues to rely on assistance from abroad, Israel will be annihilated.
The retired senior diplomat points out that one of the obstacles on the path to peace is each side’s fear of being labeled “suckers.” The two sides feel that concessions they’ve made in the past have gone unreciprocated, and thus remain steadfast in refusing to make more.
In general, Israel holds more cards, and thus will be forced to make more painful compromises, according to Philips.
Philips concedes that that the most difficult concession – without which an agreement is impossible – is the need to divide Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Philips ends his piece by calling the situation a Greek tragedy, with no happy end in sight. “I hope I’m wrong.”
There may be no happy ending to the Israeli-Palestinian clash, says Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Israel
“Song for Peace” is written on the bloodstained paper that was in the jacket pocket of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he was assassinated on 4th November, 1995 by Yigal Amir, a member of an extremist Israeli nationalist group
For the last six years I have served as a British ambassador in the Middle East, first to Israel and then to Saudi Arabia. I leave the region with particular sadness that in this period the chances of a solution to the long-running conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians—on which, ultimately, turns the issue of Israel’s acceptance in the region—have grown bleaker. These are my ten rules for why this is the case.
Rule 1: “The worst thing will always happen at the worst possible time”
Examples are legion. A few follow.
The assassination in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, was the one fatal act which could have—and did—effectively end any hope that the Oslo peace process would get anywhere, even if the formal last rites were delayed until 2000 in Camp David. Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 destroyed any chance that Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, would be able to make a large unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, as he had promised during his election campaign, in the wake of the withdrawal from Gaza by Ariel Sharon, his predecessor. The Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead [a United Nations fact-finding mission, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009], published in September 2009, appeared at just the moment to make it even harder for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to descend from the tree into which he had been encouraged to climb by faulty American tactics in the starter phase of the Obama administration. Obama settled in at the White House—an American president at last fully understanding why solving the Palestinian issue is vital for American, and western, interests—just as Israel voted for a right-wing government which would thoroughly complicate his efforts.
One sub-rule of this main rule is the complexity of overlapping political timetables. Peace making is all too often on hold because there are Israeli, or American, or even Palestinian, elections. The rhythm of peace-making efforts is constrained above all by the short horizons of the American system, and the intense preoccupation of Israelis with their own political system (see Rule 8).
Rule 2: “Everyone is afraid of being a sucker”
Fears of being a sucker (a “fryer” in Yiddish and now Hebrew) are an explicit part of Israeli political discourse, but are just as evident in the Palestinian approach to peace making. Both sides feel that concessions they have made in the past have not been reciprocated, and are therefore determined not to take the first step this time around. Such worries prevent the Israelis in particular from coming to terms with the reality that since they hold the majority of the cards, they will inevitably have to make the greater concessions. And the West Bank barrier—now as much psychological as physical—means that most Israelis can ignore the morally questionable realities of occupation.
The corollary of this rule is that each party, to avoid being a sucker, acts in a manner destined to prevent progress, thus ensuring an outcome which is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The rule applies more widely in the region. There is no Arab inclination publicly to suggest the possibility of a less than fully prescriptive, or even a graduated, approach to the Arab Peace Initiative (which offers Israel the prospect of normalisation in the region) because those governments assess that Israel would simply take advantage of any first move on their part and leave them suckered. Besides, they’ve got enough on their plate at the moment (see Rule 9).
Rule 3: “Only the Americans can, and the Americans can’t”
There is no prospect of the Israelis and Palestinians doing their own deal—the key issues are simply too hard (see Rules 6 and 7). No one but the Americans has the leverage and the historical record to persuade the Israelis to make the necessary concessions and to underpin any deal with the necessary security guarantees. The maxim “we can’t want it more than the parties” is fundamentally fake: neither side has yet reached the level of exhaustion where it is ready to offer the necessary compromises, and both would prefer to avoid the most testing questions. Indeed, both sides need to be able to tell their constituencies that while in an ideal world they would not have gone so far, Uncle Sam has made it clear there is no alternative. But the United States has only fitfully been willing to play such an imperial role, and the Americans can never be a genuinely impartial broker—the whole weight of their system and their perceptions tilt them towards the Israelis. The problems this can cause were brutally apparent at the Middle East peace summit at Camp David in 2000, when Yasser Arafat, then Palestinian Authority chairman, rightly suspected every American initiative of being pre-cooked with the Israelis. Obama has yet to prove he will be the president who proves there can be exceptions to this rule, although there are now hopes that he might press harder on this issue in Obama Term 2. Assuming, of course, the next four years are not Romney Term 1…
Rule 4: “It’s easier for a right-wing Israeli government to make peace than a left-wing one” (a rule sometimes called “only Likud can”)
This rule is, I suspect, both true and untrue. Proponents point back to 1979 and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s deal with Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat for the return of the Sinai; or Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s acceptance of the invitation to go to the Madrid peace talks in 1991; or Sharon’s uprooting of settlements and withdrawal from Gaza in 2004. They perhaps omit, for example, that it was Rabin who made peace with Jordan in 1994. Yes, any deal struck by a right-wing Israeli government will be an easier sell to a sceptical Israeli public than one struck by a government of the left. But I think the rule severely underestimates the equal and opposite reality that any government of the right will find it far more difficult to make the necessary compromises on what is not only seen as a critical security buffer, but is also the “Biblical homeland”—Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem. That’s why the settlers have been so successful in exploiting an Israeli system in which many share their longing to “return,” and have been able to establish so many facts on the ground which severely complicate (and may already have blocked entirely) the path to peace. Begin could give away the Sinai since only a few Israeli extremists would have claimed that this area too formed part of God’s original promise.
Rule 5: “Incrementalism doesn’t work”
Partly because of Rule 2—everyone is afraid of being a sucker. Most models of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking are designed to leave the really hard issues, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees, to last. But the Palestinians in particular worry that this means that those issues will never be on the table: hence their understandable insistence on the “nothing agreed until everything agreed” mantra. The fact that the Israelis have never been prepared to agree that there should be no change to the status quo in relation to issues to be left to the final stages of negotiations (such as no further building in East Jerusalem) compounds Palestinian worries about the risks of incrementalism, as do their bitter memories of the way settlement construction continued apace during the Oslo process.
Rule 6: “It’s all about Jerusalem and the Right of Return”
Analysts dispute whether this is a conflict about land or religion. I believe it is essentially a dispute about identity, with land and religion as principal expressions of the identity issues involved. The two issues which are key to the identities which are in conflict are Jerusalem and the Right of Return—the Palestinian refugee issue. Any Israeli or Palestinian leader who cannot say that each morning is ducking how hard it will be to make progress. Of the two, the refugee issue is the easier, although any internal Palestinian leader will be wary of signing up to any deal which means that his brethren in camps in Lebanon and elsewhere cannot come back to Jaffa or Haifa—unless perhaps such a deal comes with the firm backing, and resources, of the international community including the Arab world. Bear in mind also that the Israelis will baulk even at acknowledging that there is any such thing as a Right of Return (even if it is not to be implemented), rejecting the implication that there was such an original sin at the heart of the creation of the Israeli state. They would argue that responsibility for the problem should be shared with the Arab armies who invaded in 1948 and even with those Palestinian leaders who advised their communities to get on the road. And that it is wrong for Israel to take a hit for this particular refugee problem when Arab states have never come under critical scrutiny over the manner of the departure of their Jewish citizens in the early years of the Israeli state.
Rule 7: “There cannot be a deal on sovereignty of the Old City”
The core of the Jerusalem identity issue is the Old City, and a main lesson of 2000/2001 (from Camp David through to the parameters proposed by President Bill Clinton) is that it is not possible to do a deal dividing sovereignty there between the Israelis and the Palestinians, particularly when it comes to the Temple Mount/Haram-al-Sharif. The 1947 UN partition plan got it right—there will have to be some kind of special arrangement, at least for the Old City. There are models, and sovereignty could be given to God (leaving Israeli and Palestinian mortals to agree only to administrative arrangements), or kicked into touch (as when Olmert, in his potentially taboo-breaking 2008 offer to Abbas, suggested an interim arrangement for the Old City). Without such a deal, there will be no wider Israeli-Palestinian deal. And without an Israeli-Palestinian deal including a satisfactory resolution of the Jerusalem issue, Israel will never be accepted by the Islamic world.
Rule 8: “The difficulty of reaching a deal is compounded by the dysfunctional political systems on both sides”
This rule is easily illustrated on the Palestinian side. The gap between Fatah, dominant on the West Bank, and Hamas, controlling Gaza, raises the question of whether the Palestinian Authority will ever feel able to make compromises to do a deal with the Israelis. Fatah is also still struggling to make the transition to a credible political party, and too many Fatah knives are aimed at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s back. On the Israeli side, a political system of proportional representation with a low threshold for parties to win seats in the Knesset is all too often a recipe for short-lived governments held hostage by the smaller and harder-line members of any coalition. Intriguingly, Benjamin Netanyahu’s deal with Shaul Mofaz, now vice prime minister, raises the possibility of a government with sufficient political bandwidth to go all the way, if it wanted to. But does it?
Rule 9: “The international community has never wanted it enough”
The Palestinian issue has been left unresolved too long. It was not until the 1937 Peel Commission that some British officials had the courage to understand that the full meaning of the 1917 Balfour declaration, and that the only way to meet the national aspirations of the two sides, was a two-state solution. Since 1948, and above all since 1967, international will to push for such an outcome has all too often been lacking, with the Americans in particular only slowly coming to the same realisation of what peace will take, having rejected the European Union’s 1981 Venice declaration, which in many ways started the process of scales falling from international eyes.
If—at least for the foreseeable future—the only alternative to a two-state solution is continuing conflict (see Rule 10), and if such conflict represents, as it does, a threat to wider US and western interests in the region and more widely, then a sustained international drive to achieve a two-state deal should be a no-brainer. But as the experience of the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) confirms, the Americans are genetically indisposed to move into a genuinely multilateralist mode on this issue; and the EU has failed over the years to translate declaratory clarity into operational strategy and tactics, or to use its potential weight as Israel’s most important export market and economic partner. And both have failed to put their efforts together and link them to a wider regional drive to bolster moderation and contain or constrain the extremists. We should focus on transatlantic agreement on the big carrots which could be deployed to encourage the parties to move in the right direction, and the big sticks which might be necessary if they are reluctant to do so.
The other side of the “we’ve never wanted it enough” coin is that an argument can be made that the international donor community has in effect propped up the Israeli occupation by pumping in aid money which has taken the edge off Palestinian frustration. There are good humanitarian reasons for much of the assistance which has been given, and indeed (more recently) good state-building ones. But I fear the staggering level of international assistance has fostered a widespread dependency culture in Palestinian political life (for all Fayyad’s valiant efforts to reverse it) which has contributed to their leadership problems. Has the time come dramatically to scale down the funds we give the Palestinians, in order to put the full weight of the occupation on Israel, a burden I do not think they would be able to endure given, inter alia, the heavier weight it would mean to a society which needs to think of itself in morally positive terms?
A further question: why isn’t the moderate Arab world more active in pressing its western partners to get its act together and sort this one out? There are many reasons, and just at the moment the pressures of the Arab Spring, the deepening Sunni-Shia divide in the region, and the linked perception of a need to counter an Iranian push for greater regional hegemony, have inevitably pushed the Palestinian issue down on the Arab agenda. But one reason—of which Israel should beware—is the Arab reading that Israel needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinians, and, like the Crusader kingdom, will face eventual extinction if it does not make its peace with the locals rather than continue to rely on its overseas backers (for the US now read Christian Europe then). So the Arabs can wait.
Rule 10: “Failure is the most likely outcome”
This is the most complex conflict I know. And it may already be too late to achieve a two-state solution, even if that would have been the right solution, and the only possible solution. I cannot imagine any American government able to do what is necessary to press the Israelis to take the steps which are ultimately in Israel’s interest. I cannot imagine any Israeli government able to take the steps necessary to rein in the settler movement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a sustainable two-state solution to be achieved. I find it hard to imagine any internal Palestinian leadership with the authority to make the compromises on the Right of Return without which no Israeli would support a peace deal. And it’s difficult to envisage any Arab leader ready to translate the Arab Peace Initiative into actionable, supportive activity.
Nor can I imagine any viable alternative to a two-state solution. I don’t think it’s realistic to think of going back to ideas such as a UN Trusteeship for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I don’t believe either side is ready seriously to contemplate an Israel-Palestine federal model, although I am intrigued at the thought of how that might offer a way into the Jerusalem issue—the seat of a federal government serving both parts of the federation. I am intrigued too—but not convinced—by the concept of separate Israeli and Palestinian governments within an overall single state—the “parallel state” model. Nor do I believe it would be feasible, or indeed right, to try to live with the new realities on the ground and offer to pay Egypt and Jordan to soak up Gaza and a rump West Bank, hoping to push the Arab world to accept a version of Greater Israel.
This might be a Jewish and Arab problem, but it is a Greek tragedy. When you put all the above rules together, they mean there cannot be a happy ending. I hope I’m wrong.
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 July 2012
It is wholly inappropriate that the EU should be announcing a strengthening of economic ties with Israel at a time when that country is expanding its illegal settlements in the West Bank and carrying out evictions and demolitions of Palestinian property (EU move to upgrade relations with Israel, 23 July).
The announcement of 60 new areas of co-operation is in stark contrast with EU rhetoric against Israeli settlement policy. It also clashes with the EU’s stated policy of linking enhancement of relations with neighbouring countries to respect for democratic principles and human rights. The quote from an Israeli official at the end of your piece perfectly sums up what the Europeans try to deny: “Both parties are finding ways to increase co-operation when it suits them.”
Christian Aid believes that illegal settlements will continue to expand unless action, such as excluding settlement trade from EU markets, is taken that backs statements of condemnation from the EU. Any consolidation or strengthening of ties should be conditional upon an end to settlement expansion.
Policy and advocacy officer, Christian Aid
• I was outraged to read your article. The commission-proposed protocol to the Euro-Med Agreement with Israel would give Israel easier access to the EU market for exporting pharmaceutical products. Before the vote in the international trade committee, of which I am a member, the parliament asked the commission for guarantees that products from the occupied territories would not benefit from this scheme, and Labour MEPs warned the commission that any upgrade to trade relations with Israel is unacceptable while Israel continues to flout international law.
While many parliamentary groupings considered this a “technical upgrade”, it is not; it is a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel and incompatible with international law and recent European parliament declarations denouncing the abuse of human rights in the occupied territories. It would be especially galling to allow easier access to the EU market for Israeli pharmaceutical products when Palestinians struggle for medical supplies under the Israeli-imposed blockade.
David Martin MEP