Sunday

1st Aug 2021

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. Officials worried at infection-surge on Greek holiday islands
  2. EU calls on online platforms to tackle vaccine hesitancy
  3. Russia accused of falling short on Sputnik V deliveries
  4. France: UK quarantine rules 'discriminatory'
  5. Italy's government reaches deal on judicial reform
  6. EU adopts guidelines to 'climate-proof' infrastructure projects
  7. US backs WHO plan for further Covid-origin investigation
  8. EU to buy 220,000 supplies of potential Covid treatment

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Malta responsible for journalist's death, inquiry finds
  2. Can Greece work with Biden to solve the West Balkans impasse?
  3. EU and UK frustrated at US travel ban extension
  4. Polish judges rally behind EU court ruling
  5. Why 'Fit for 55' isn't fit for purpose
  6. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  7. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  8. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us