Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Israel links EU support for Palestinians to anti-Semitism

  • Israeli settlement on Palestinian land: Steinitz said Palestinians must make concessions first (Photo: Brian Negin)

Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz has said that select EU countries' support for Palestine's plan to seek full UN membership is linked to ancient anti-Semitism.

Speaking to EUobserver in Brussels on Tuesday (23 May) at an event to mark the 63rd anniversary of the creation of Israel, the minister said there is a tendency in Europe to blame the failure of the peace process on the Jewish side only.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It's very easy to put all the blame in the world on the Jewish state. As Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister once put it in Israel, he said: 'I cannot ignore the fact there is an old European tradition of 2,000 years to blame the Jews.' So maybe some of the animosity toward the state of Israel is a disguised [form of this], is coming from this tradition."

Palestinian diplomats say around 10 European countries, including Greece, Ireland, France, Spain and Sweden, as well as non-EU member Norway, will back the UN bid, which is to take place in September.

The initiative to create an independent Palestine outside the framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks comes amid a long-standing deadlock in the negotiations.

It also comes after the moderate Fatah movement, which controls the Israeli-occupied West Bank, agreed to create a unity governent with the militant Hamas group, which controls Gaza and which is listed by the EU as a terrorist entity because it advocates armed resistance against Israel.

Steinitz denied that Israeli settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land is the main obstacle to peace.

"Once it will be clear that the Arab people, including the Palestinians, really recognise Israel's right to exist as it was established as a Jewish state, then I think it will be possible to achieve an agreement," he said.

The minister described the UN plan as a "challenge to Israel's very existance" because it would bypass deal-making on questions such as the right of return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees driven out by Israeli soldiers in the 1940s.

The finance chief threatened to permanently block transfers of Palestinian tax income to the Palestinian authorities if they stick with the Hamas pact. He said Israel's confiscation of tax income this month is "temporary, a warning sign."

He added: "If they will co-operate with this terrorist organisation ... we will have to reconsider whether we can co-operate with them, whether we can deliver money they might misuse to fund terrorist organisations or terrorist acts."

Steinitz' anniversary speech in Brussels celebrated Israeli military victories over Arab forces and described the nuclear-armed regional superpower as a "tiny, miniscule" entity. It also spoke of Israel as a "Western" country with advanced democratic standards and a high-tech economy in contrast to its Arab neighbours.

About 400 EU diplomats, MEPs and senior officials, such as European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso's chief of staff, Johannes Laitenberger, came to the event.

The Israeli celebration stands in contrast to a similar party hosted by the Iranian ambassador in February, which attracted a trickle of mostly Arab, African and Asian diplomats, as well some EU parliament offiials wary of being seen by press.

The strong turnout for Steinitz on Tuesday masks the fact that EU-Israel relations are at a low point. Several EU countries are continuing to block a planned 'upgrade' in diplomatic contacts with Israel and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has refused to join the US in condemning the Fatah-Hamas pact.

"We call on our friends in Europe to stay beside us, to secure Israel, to secure the peace process," Steinitz told EUobserver. "I hope Europe will stay beside us."

Israeli Finance Minister

Watch more EUobserver videos here

Tension, confusion behind EU facade on Palestine

Hostility toward foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, confusion over what the Palestinians will ask for at the UN and how major EU countries will react marked behind-closed-doors talks of EU ministers in Poland.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

Column

A 'geopolitical' EU Commission. Great idea - but when?

Safeguarding Europe's position starts with recognising the unpleasant reality that Europe's power is waning. Behind the facade of European cooperation, national self-interest still predominates and that has never been any different.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us