Tuesday

29th Sep 2020

Opinion

Europe's last stand for the two-state solution?

  • The EU's agreed policy is limited to mandate the high representative Josep Borrell to work to prevent the Israeli annexation (Photo: Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem)

The new Israeli coalition government's commitment to a unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank poses a direct challenge to the European Union's efforts to keep the possibility of a two-state solution alive.

European governments, despite their different policy sensibilities, are still united in their support for a two-state solution. This may be the last chance Europe has to defend this goal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

Europe's commitment to the two-state solution cannot be overstated.

It has been a cornerstone of the Union's foreign policy since the 1980's Venice Declaration. However, it has become evident that unanimity is out of reach when it comes to the policy options for the day after annexation.

As a consequence, EU's agreed policy is limited to mandate the high representative Josep Borrell to work to prevent the Israeli annexation.

For this reason the EU is pushing for a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The most adequate framework for this would be the Madrid Quartet.

Since 2002 the Quartet has provided multilateral support to help bring the parties to the negotiating table. In order to provide additional leverage, the Quartet could be enlarged.

This idea is already accepted by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who opened the door for a "Quartet plus" including 'Saudi Arabia, UAE, China and others'.

In its relations with the EU, Israel has underscored the insecurity derived from Iran's nuclear program and deep involvement in regional scenarios, demanding Europeans pay more attention to these regional menaces.

Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to solidify Israeli relations with the monarchies in the Gulf, who share many of those regional concerns, have been substantial.

Engaging with the Europeans and the leading Gulf countries has an obvious appeal for Israel.

'Quartet Plus'

Furthermore, within a "Quartet Plus" framework, the EU could play a much-needed role in helping to reduce the gap between the Trump Administration 'Peace to prosperity' Israeli-driven position and the Palestinian position that demands internationally endorsed parameters as the framework for any talks.

Nevertheless, without the involvement of the United States such efforts would bear limited results, as American leverage over Israel and its participation in the annexation decision is considered crucial.

Up to now, pessimism around the Middle East peace process has not proven to be misguided.

If European diplomatic efforts are not supported by Washington or they fail to seize the opportunities arising from the current regional dynamics, the annexation will be the most important obstacle yet placed in front of the two-state solution.

Confronted with this reality and even in the absence of unanimity some member states may choose to act.

There are increasing calls for economic sanctions on Israel – taking inspiration from the measures placed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea – but such a set of actions would be neither appropriate nor politically viable if Europe intends to play a constructive role.

However, calls for an increased 'policy of differentiation' by national authorities of settlement products and services seem to be gaining political momentum in some countries.

Another potential response might involve the suspension of Israeli participation in some EU programmes – EU's upcoming Horizon Europe has been mentioned as a possibility. Unanimity is required for participation by associate countries, so any country could block it.

A traditional policy option brandished by EU governments when Middle East peace process has stalled is to revive the issue of recognition of the Palestinian state.

Already nine out of 27 EU member states formally recognise the State of Palestine (although in most cases the recognition was made when they were part of the Soviet bloc).

In 2014, following the collapse of the latest round of direct negotiations, multiple EU countries passed parliamentary non-binding resolutions in support of the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Those resolutions enjoyed strong political support, but only Sweden proceeded towards recognition.

Israel, with US support, has worked hard towards avoiding this scenario, as the recognition by a majority of member states could mean that the 'policy of differentiation' becomes the rule, not the exception.

Traditionally, Israel and the United States have succeeded in preventing such far-reaching decisions by offering an attractive political horizon for direct negotiations.

This time around, given the current state of transatlantic relations and without a revived political process, European countries compliance with such requests should not be taken for granted.

This European price-tag, even in combination with that may be imposed by other regional actors, may not deter the annexation decision.

Though put together with the fading away long-term strategic landscape for Israeli-Palestinian understanding, Europe's effort may be the last stand for the two-state solution.

If it fails, the practical end of the two-state solution will inevitably lead to an increased support for a one-state solution, which will likely be curtailed by a civil rights equality movement with a higher cost for all.

Author bio

Javier Soria Quintana is a Spanish career diplomat, currently serving as deputy head of mission at the Spanish embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The views expressed in this piece are his own.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Luxembourg takes EU lead on Palestine recognition

Luxembourg has stepped up efforts to coordinate an EU reaction to the risk Israel will annex Palestinian territories - but European recognition of Palestine remains a dim prospect.

Now's the time to give QMV a chance in EU foreign policy

The loudest applause from MEPs during Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union speech came for her call to move to Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in foreign policy - at least on human rights and sanctions implementation.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court defenestrates Catalan leader
  2. Report: EU helped Taiwan on name dispute
  3. Belarusian writer goes to Germany for treatment
  4. Rapid Covid-19 tests for developing world imminent
  5. Dutch advised against 'non-essential' travel to Belgium
  6. Covid-19 hit Roma community hard, report finds
  7. Merkel visited Navalny in Berlin hospital
  8. EU's new raw materials strategy 'threatens' climate action

How EU can help end Uighur forced labour

A recent report noted apparel and footwear as the leading exports from the Uighur region - with a combined value of $6.3bn [€5.3bn] representing over 35 percent of total exports.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m
  2. Reports: Turkey sent Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan
  3. German presidency tries to end EU's rule-of-law battle
  4. 'Sponsored returns' may shuffle failed asylum seekers around EU
  5. German wins election to be mayor of Romania's third city
  6. Minsk on the edge means whole Eastern Partnership is at risk
  7. Caucasus warfare prompts EU alarm
  8. Summit reloaded and last Brexit round This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us