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Letter to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU

Letter to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU

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Published by joshblock
A group of prominent former European political, military and intellectual leaders called on the EU’s foreign ministers this week to reconsider applying new guidelines that would bar any cooperation with Israeli entities that operate beyond the Green Line.
A group of prominent former European political, military and intellectual leaders called on the EU’s foreign ministers this week to reconsider applying new guidelines that would bar any cooperation with Israeli entities that operate beyond the Green Line.

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Published by: joshblock on Sep 28, 2013
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02/22/2014

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To: The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European UnionCc: Mr. Herman van Rompuy, President of the European CouncilMr. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European CommissionLady Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and SecurityPolicy and Vice-President of the European CommissionMs. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovationand ScienceMr.
Š
tefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood PolicyRe: Ensuring the European Union’s constructive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace talksDear Foreign Minister,We are writing to you today to endorse a constructive contribution of the European Unionto the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and in particular, to facilitate the efforts of USSecretary 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 tothe political courage of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and negotiators who have nowresumed peace talks after years of impasse. In that respect, and following SecretaryKerry’s request, we call upon you to re-consider the application of the "EuropeanCommission guidelines on funding of Israeli entities in the Occupied Territories" withoutalienating 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 theseformer officials should appear oblivious to the time, effort, and diplomatic capitalinvested 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 tothe 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 statementissued by the EU High Representative following the resumption of Israeli-Palestiniannegotiations 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
 
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both parties and will make every effort, together with our partners, to ensurethat negotiations succeed. I firmly believe that a final end to this conflict is within reach. I call on all thosewho wish to see a negotiated solution to support those now engaged in talks sothat 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 “areliable 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 toadvance a more equitable, just, and peaceful world order. Unfortunately, the latest effortof the European Commission to issue strict restrictive guidelines on cooperation withIsrael actually brings it further from those goals.The guidelines, issued this past June, plainly state that this cooperation, which may alsotake 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 theterritories occupied by Israel since June 1967." Since they were issued, someinternational voices, like the European Eminent Persons Group, have issued public callsto 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 theyare invested. It can be understood that Brussels may want to make sure that EU economiccooperation with partners abroad not get mired in contentious territorial disputes. But thequestion 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 territorialdisputes, 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 againstIsrael.Furthermore, while European policymakers remain rightfully mindful of the politicalchallenges facing President Abbas, it appears that they tend to ignore the challengesfacing Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. European leaders appear disinclined to take into due consideration the complex and multiple strategic challengesfacing Israel, and the full track record of the Government of Israel with regards to thePalestinians, 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 onrefusal, 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 agreewith it. People are perfectly entitled to agree or not; but rather anunwillingness to listen to the other side, to acknowledge that Israel has a point,
 
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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'sguidelines on Israel almost always suggest that it is necessary because of Israelisettlement activity. Israeli settlements have admittedly been controversial. Israel's legalsystem, which is highly respected internationally, has made the argument that they arelegal according to its understanding of the 1949 Geneva Convention. European foreignministries 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 notannounced 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 settlementsinto one of the issues that were to be negotiated as part of the final status of the disputedterritories. In the course of subsequent negotiations, the Palestinians in fact agreed thatsome settlements would be retained by Israel in any final accord. Those settlements thatwould not be kept by Israel were proven not to be an obstacle for any withdrawal, sinceIsrael proved twice--once in Sinai in 1982 and second in the Gaza Strip in 2005-- that itwas prepared to dismantle settlements when necessary.We, therefore, call upon you to support the launch of an engagement, outreach, anddialogue effort with Israel based on joint values, mutual respect, common interests, andshared benefits. Time has come for Europe to recognize the extraordinary circumstancesand challenges facing the sole liberal and thriving democracy in its southernneighborhood. This is not to say that friends should avoid criticizing each other, butEurope has an obligation to manage its conversation with Israel in a far more honorableand open-minded manner.By explicitly restricting EU cooperation with Israel to territory within the 1967 lines, theEuropean 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 underminingthe delicate negotiations that are currently transpiring. By treating Israel differently thanmost 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 legalsystems 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 theJewish state to be treated equally within the international community.
Europe is not doing a special favor to Israel in deepening bilateral cooperation; it is inEurope’s interest. The effective exclusion of Israel from “Horizon 2020” will not harmIsrael as much as it will deprive Europe of benefiting from Israel’s leading position inscientific R&D. Israel is the only non-European country invited to join “Horizon 2020,”

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