Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Opinion

Europe - the missing key to Middle East peace

  • War damage in Gaza after Israel's assault in 2009 (Photo: zoriah)

The latest American Middle East peace initiative has been launched in the absence of change in the attitudes of the protagonists or in the political landscape. Is America gambling with a new round of dead-end diplomacy by packaging old wine in new bottles?

The United States urgently needs Europe if it wants to break the deadlocked peace negotiations and Europe needs to take additional responsibility for resolving the conflict. Indeed, Israel may also need to reassess Europe's relevance for its future.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The problem is that the White House has been working with the wrong assumption. The current deadlock does not stem from a dispute over the order of topics to negotiate, for example the place of a settlement freeze in relation to other controversial subjects. Rather, it lies in the predisposition of the stakeholders in the conflict: America has too close a relationship to Israel to be able to twist its partner's arm to take a risk for peace. Israel is too comfortable with the occupation and the Palestinians are divided. Moreover, Arab rulers do not convey credibility.

Strong international pressure is needed to break the deadlock. But Washington alone is losing political muscle. Close co-ordination between the United States and Europe could both strengthen the power of mediation and provide international security to enforce a peace agreement.

To better understand Europe's credentials for peace promotion, consider some historical facts: Europe played a major role in the formation of the state of Israel. The British government authorised the "Homeland for the Jews." The apocalyptic tragedy of the Holocaust, a central factor that in the promotion of a Jewish state, was a Nazi German undertaking. Indeed, Jews who fled from Europe formed the essential backbone of the early state of Israel. And the first peace mission to the region after the 1967 occupation was undertaken by a European - Gunnar Jarring, the Swedish envoy to the United Nations.

Over the years, Europe's role as a mediator receded, giving way to an expanding US role in the region. But in more recent decades, European states have achieved excellence in policing peace in many places: in the Middle East, the Balkans, West Africa and elsewhere. Given the opportunity, Europe could provide the Israelis and Palestinians with the necessary international security that is crucial for enforcing a two-state solution.

This international security is necessary, as most Palestinians strongly feel that a future Palestine would require a national army (albeit, possibly a symbolic one). Palestinian skies and borders must be free. But Israel considers an armed, independent Palestinian state, including armed movements such as Hamas within it, a threat to its current and future security.

Stationing international forces of peace on the borders of Israel and an envisioned Palestine state, backed by Europe would simultaneously give Palestinians the independence they need and Israel the security it yearns for.

Despite its limitations, a peace-keeping model is already on the ground in the region in the shape of Unifil, the UN force in southern Lebanon, which largely consists of and has been led by European states. This force could be modified, strengthened and broadened to cover the West Bank, Gaza, and possibly the Syrian Golan borders. Currently, the EU itself has a police mission along the border with Egypt, and despite its observer status, it could further contribute through an expansion to the 1967 borders. Indeed, Palestinians are more likely to be tolerant of a European force, bearing in mind Europe's perceived balance in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Europe, or rather, the EU can further contribute to a future agreement by offering, as an incentive to Israel and future Palestine, a "special status," similar to the EU's recent offer to Morocco. Also, Europe is urging the two factions of Cyprus to make peace in order to qualify as a united country for EU membership. Why not link the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the prospects of securing Israel and establishing a viable Palestinian state within a protective, suitable regional framework? If Cyprus is a candidate for the EU why not Israel and Palestine?

The long-term future of Israel could depend more on Europe than on the United States. Hopefully, one day, should Israel decide to withdraw from the 1967 territories, it might discover that Europe could be its bridge to the Arab world.

The writer is a former Middle East representative at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches for the Common Ground News Service (CG News) in Jerusalem

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

EU should ensure sustainable Cohesion Policy

As the EU Council kicks off negotiations over the post-2020 budget, ministers have have an opportunity to create a framework that will unlock innovative financing and scale up the citizen-led clean energy transformation

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  2. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  3. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  4. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  5. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  6. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  7. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans
  8. Turkey snap elections set for 24 June

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  2. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  3. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  4. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  5. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  7. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  8. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  9. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  12. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies

Latest News

  1. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  2. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  3. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  4. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  5. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  6. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole
  7. EU investment bank confirms secrecy of VW fraud report
  8. More commitment to renewables from Council, please

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  2. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?