EU financial pressure on Israel – Palestinian peace process boost or backfire?
The European Union has moved to cut off all Israeli entities that
operate in the disputed areas of the West Bank and East
The measure comes as the EU attempts to pressure Israel to keep the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders.
The decision will affect more than half a million Israeli settlers and has provoked an angry reaction from Tel-Aviv, but Europe says it's merely formalized a position that had been stated many times before.
European Parliament member, Paul Murphy, and the Jerusalem Post's chief political correspondent, Gil Hoffman, discussed the issue on RT.
RT: The EU never approved of the Israeli settlements, but had never taken real action before. Why now?
Paul Murphy: I think primarily it’s a reflection of pressure from below in Europe whereby many-many people are fed up with what is in reality the ongoing complicity of the EU with the oppression of the Palestinians – where on the one hand you have crocodile tears about the Palestinians, but then fundamentally you have support, including money, politically for the Israeli establishment. And so the pressure simply has become too much for the European Commission and so it introduced these guidelines. It will be up to significant pressure continually being built and applied to see that the guidelines are actually implemented in such a way it will have an effect. If they are implemented fully and to the letter they can have an effect and can be of worth. Probably hundreds of millions of Euros on a yearly basis are not being transferred to Israeli institutions involved in the occupation. But above all I think it has a political significance because of that pressure from below. It’s a step forward and I would say it has to go significantly further. It’s not good enough that settlement goods could still enter into the European markets; they should be abandoned – the settlement goods. But it’s also not good enough that even while they are doing this there is still an upgrading of relations between the EU and Israel happening.
RT: Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he refuses to accept what he calls "external diktats" and won't let his country settlers be harmed. But does Israel really have a choice here? Can Israel afford to lose these EU funds?
Gil Hoffman: Absolutely not. Israel wants to cooperate with Europe. Israel realizes the important role Europe can play. And that’s why it’s so important that Europe be smart with the money and all the other influence that they have here in the region and not take steps that distance peace. There is something in your report that wasn’t entirely accurate when you said “the right” were primarily upset by this decision in Israel. Actually, I think that “the left” was more upset. The people who want there to be a peace process, the people who want there to be two states for two peoples for Israel on good and see unilateral steps like these from Europe that make it so much harder to achieve peace.
RT: Netanyahu says that he refuses to accept external pressure on the borders I mean isn’t it in some ways a declaration of not necessarily wanting to negotiate a peaceful solution?
Gil Hoffman: What’s going on right now as we speak is that [US Secretary of State] John Kerry is on his way to Ramallah to try to back the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, which the Americans have been doing for five years while Israel has been at the table waiting for them. It’s very hard for Israel to give up the people who harm the Jewish people and yet because we want there to be two states for two peoples, that’s what Netanyahu wants because we want to see an end to the conflict, Netanyahu is willing to do it. And now the Palestinians are hardening their positions saying: “We have Europe on our side, why should we give in to John Kerry.” So, already right now as we speak attempts to make the peace in the Middle East are much harder, because the mistakes have been made by the European bureaucrats who were obviously uninformed as to how much harm they are causing to Palestinian people.
RT: Paul, do you agree to this perspective, what’s your reaction to this?
Paul Murphy: I don’t agree. Let’s look what is the role of settlements in this situation. The settlements are clearly an obstacle and the conscious obstacle what Israeli establishing to the creation of the viable Palestinian state. We’ve had a massive expansion of settlements over the past twelve years and doubling of settlers in the occupied territories, in particular over the past year. An expansion of settlements around East Jerusalem designed to cut off Eastern Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank to try to make a viable Palestinian state impossible. So you can’t have genuine peace talks on the basis of that we’re going to maintain our settlements, we going to maintain the occupation, we going to maintain the blockade on Gaza. And the point is that the removal of the settlements is absolutely necessary in terms of any basis for a viable Palestinian state and that’s why it’s correct that we have our focus and emphasis on it.
RT: The situation in these areas for Palestinians isn’t necessary a stable one, there’s a lot of political turmoil. Are the Palestinians in a position to be a reliable negotiating partner?
Paul Murphy: The fundamental point is I think that the Israeli capital’s establishment isn’t a reliable negotiating partner. There will be no real peace as long as the establishment in Israel remains in power. They have to be massively challenged. They can be, through a massive movement of the Palestinians from below, which there is a potential. You’ve seen significant protest, significant movement, the potential to redevelop a struggle along the lines of the First Intifada. That’s the kind of thing that is necessary. Such a movement could link up with the genuine Israeli left, with working people and young people, who don’t benefit from the oppression of the Palestinians, overthrow the capitalist establishment of Israel and struggle for a genuine peace, which can only be built in if the negotiations here have to be ordinary working people, Israeli people, Palestinian people, not the representatives of the elites backed up by the US, backed up by the EU.
RT: Israel does in some way seems to be paying a heavy price, in terms of ties with the US and the EU, for settlement expansion beyond the Green Line. Is it really a price worth paying for this territorial gain?
Gil Hoffman: The fate of what will remain part of Israel, what would become a part of the Palestinian state will be decided in negotiations. One side or an external side getting involved and dictating in advance where the borders going to be isn’t going to help anyone. Now, we already know that the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem are going to be part of Israel forever, settlement blocks will be part of Israel forever. Perhaps saying that Israel shouldn’t build in far-flung areas, that it should be part of the Palestinian state makes sense. But what Europe has done here is drawn the line arbitrarily and where 700.000 people live. That’s really hard and that’s unfair. And you have an elected Israeli government despite what the gentleman from the European parliament says. We have a moderate parliament that we elected. That is 59 seats out of 120 on the left, very evenly distributed. These people want there to be two states for two peoples and the very fact that EU parliament member would rather see uprisings, Intifadas and war and death it is just really, really unfortunate. We should have democracy and it’s time for Europe to stop undermining democracy and allow there to be peace and stop taking actions against peace that will result in thousands of Palestinians being unemployed, losing their livelihood. Democracy, peace – yes. War, uprisings and death – no.
Paul Murphy: There is war, there’s death, there’s poverty, oppression and it’s caused by actions of Israeli government against the Palestinians in Gaza, against the Palestinians within the borders of 1967, against the Palestinians within the West Bank. The only resolution is on the basis of such a struggle, that’s a way justice can actually be taken, that’s not an action against peace, that’s an action for peace. And the idea, I just mean aggressive acts is not what’s happening here, the aggressive act is the expansion of settlements, the robbing of Palestinian homes. That’s where the aggressive act is taking place here.