Regarding the guidelines on joint funds between the EU and Israel
Letter to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union
We proudly recall Europe’s past contribution to the peace process, evident in its instrumental role in formulating the 2002 Israeli-Palestinian Roadmap for Peace.
2013-10-01 by Members of the Friends of Israel Initiative
To: The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union
Cc: Mr. Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council
Mr. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission
Lady Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission
Ms. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Mr. Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Re: Ensuring the European Union’s constructive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
Dear Foreign Minister,
We are writing to you today to endorse a constructive contribution of the European Union to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and in particular, to facilitate the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry in advancing the ongoing negotiations between the parties. We urge you to lend critical support to both Secretary Kerry’s remarkable efforts and to the political courage of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiators who have now resumed peace talks after years of impasse. In that respect, and following Secretary Kerry’s request, we call upon you to re-consider the application of the "European Commission guidelines on funding of Israeli entities in the Occupied Territories" without alienating Israel, but rather through engagement and by supporting the peace process.
We note with much dismay the calls of former European officials, like the so-called “European Eminent Persons Group” to reject Secretary Kerry’s request. That these former officials should appear oblivious to the time, effort, and diplomatic capital invested by the parties and by Secretary Kerry and his team is not surprising. After all, the very same former officials called upon you only five months ago to consider the peace process doomed and suggested, in effect, to suspend European Union funding to the Palestinian Authority. Secretary Kerry and the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians proved them wrong. Their more recently issued statement is no more valid than their previous call.
Rather, we call upon you to ensure the full and effective implementation of the statement issued by the EU High Representative following the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in July:
“Both Israel and the Palestinians have a reliable friend and ally in the European Union. The resumption of talks opens new doors both for developing further the EU’s contribution to peace and security in the region and for deepening our relations with both parties. We will remain fully engaged with both parties and will make every effort, together with our partners, to ensure that negotiations succeed.
I firmly believe that a final end to this conflict is within reach. I call on all those who wish to see a negotiated solution to support those now engaged in talks so that the opportunity for peace can be seized."
In that respect, the one-sided dictating of a European position to Israel is not an act of “a reliable friend and ally”.
There is no need to remind you that in order to represent the shared values of its member states, the EU must always endeavor to be at the forefront of international efforts to advance a more equitable, just, and peaceful world order. Unfortunately, the latest effort of the European Commission to issue strict restrictive guidelines on cooperation with Israel actually brings it further from those goals.
The guidelines, issued this past June, plainly state that this cooperation, which may also take the form of grants or prizes, must not geographically extend beyond Israel’s pre-1967 line. Their purpose, according to the guidelines document, is to ensure respect for EU positions like "the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967." Since they were issued, some international voices, like the European Eminent Persons Group, have issued public calls to member states to back the EU "fully applying" the guidelines.
The European Commission is free to insist on how EU resources are used and where they are invested. It can be understood that Brussels may want to make sure that EU economic cooperation with partners abroad not get mired in contentious territorial disputes. But the question then arises if these new restrictions in the case of Israel represent a broader policy that is being applied universally by the EU with respect to the dozens of territorial disputes, some of which are on Europe’s doorstep (fishery agreement with Morocco over the waters of Western Sahara, funds to the Turkish community in Northern Cyprus, for instance), or, put it simply, is just a discriminatory policy directed exclusively against Israel.
Furthermore, while European policymakers remain rightfully mindful of the political challenges facing President Abbas, it appears that they tend to ignore the challenges facing Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. European leaders appear disinclined to take into due consideration the complex and multiple strategic challenges facing Israel, and the full track record of the Government of Israel with regards to the Palestinians, including the 2010 moratorium on settlement construction.
Reflecting upon prevalent European attitudes regarding Israel and the peace process, Quartet Representative Tony Blair pointed out in 2010 that there:
“is a conscious or often unconscious resistance, sometimes bordering on refusal, to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view. Note that I say refusal to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view. I’m not saying refusal to agree with it. People are perfectly entitled to agree or not; but rather an unwillingness to listen to the other side, to acknowledge that Israel has a point, to embrace the notion that this is a complex matter that requires understanding of the other way of looking at it.
Those who advocate that the EU move forward with the European Commission’s guidelines on Israel almost always suggest that it is necessary because of Israeli settlement activity. Israeli settlements have admittedly been controversial. Israel’s legal system, which is highly respected internationally, has made the argument that they are legal according to its understanding of the 1949 Geneva Convention. European foreign ministries interpret the Fourth Geneva Convention differently and say they are illegal. The US has been critical of settlements as an "obstacle for peace," but it has not announced that they are illegal.
In any case, Israel and the Palestinians have found a way to deal with settlements in their negotiations between them. The 1993 Oslo Agreements did not prohibit Israel from providing support for its population in the settlements. The agreements made settlements into one of the issues that were to be negotiated as part of the final status of the disputed territories. In the course of subsequent negotiations, the Palestinians in fact agreed that some settlements would be retained by Israel in any final accord. Those settlements that would not be kept by Israel were proven not to be an obstacle for any withdrawal, since Israel proved twice--once in Sinai in 1982 and second in the Gaza Strip in 2005-- that it was prepared to dismantle settlements when necessary.
We, therefore, call upon you to support the launch of an engagement, outreach, and dialogue effort with Israel based on joint values, mutual respect, common interests, and shared benefits. Time has come for Europe to recognize the extraordinary circumstances and challenges facing the sole liberal and thriving democracy in its southern neighborhood. This is not to say that friends should avoid criticizing each other, but Europe has an obligation to manage its conversation with Israel in a far more honorable and open-minded manner.
By explicitly restricting EU cooperation with Israel to territory within the 1967 lines, the European Commission is not somehow saving the peace process. In many respects it is prejudging the question of Israel’s future borders, and in doing so it is in fact undermining the delicate negotiations that are currently transpiring. By treating Israel differently than most other states, this policy only reinforces the impression among Israelis that Europe is basically unfriendly to Israel and cannot be relied upon as it once was. All advanced legal systems are based on the principle of equality before the law. Europe should not put itself in the position that in adopting a discriminatory policy, it is denying the rights of the Jewish state to be treated equally within the international community.
Europe is not doing a special favor to Israel in deepening bilateral cooperation; it is in Europe’s interest. The effective exclusion of Israel from “Horizon 2020” will not harm Israel as much as it will deprive Europe of benefiting from Israel’s leading position in scientific R&D. Israel is the only non-European country invited to join “Horizon 2020,” presumably because of the enormous contribution it could potentially make: it has been a hothouse for new ideas in American hi-tech industries. One of the ideas behind “Horizon 2020” is to improve the competitiveness of European economies. Moreover, the program is not a handout to Israel but rather a joint R&D effort based on funding that comes from both sides.
Furthermore, a new European approach to Israel would yield the concrete contribution to peace and security to which High Representative Ashton aspired. In that context, we welcome and encourage the current dialogue between EU and Israeli senior officials to resolve the disagreements concerning the EU Commission’s guidelines. This is a step in the right direction and we call upon you to take advantage of this opening to turn over a new leaf in EU-Israel relations.
While we proudly recall Europe’s past contribution to the peace process, evident in its instrumental role in formulating the 2002 Israeli-Palestinian Roadmap for Peace, we view with much dismay the peripheral role consigned to Europe in the current phase of the peace process. We believe that Europe has an instrumental role to play in the Middle East peace process. To that end, Europe must really become “a reliable friend and ally” of not one, but both parties – Israel and the Palestinians.
JOSE MARIA AZNAR- Former Prime Minister of Spain
LORD DAVID TRIMBLE-Former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Nobel Peace Prize1998
ALEJANDRO TOLEDO-Former President of Peru
LUIS ALBERTO LACALLE-Former President of Uruguay
ALEXANDER DOWNER-Former Foreign Minister of Australia
BILL RICHARDSON- Former Governor of New Mexico
GEORGE WEIGEL-Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
FIAMMA NIRENSTEIN- Former Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Italian Chamber of Deputies
ANDREW ROBERTS-British historian and writer
CARLOS BUSTELO-Former Spanish Industry Minister
ROBERTO F. AGOSTINELLI-Managing Director of Rhone Group
LORD WEIDENFELD OF CHELSEA- member of House of Lords
CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER-exiled Cuban journalist and author.
Col. RICHARD KEMP- Former British Military Commander.
GIULIO TERZI, Former Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
KAREL SCHWARZENBERG, Former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.