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Israel-Palestine. Update on the position of Europeans vis-à-vis the peace process

(B2) While the Israeli government could announce, on July 1, an annexation of part of the West Bank, the Europeans are holding their breath. Their role in the Middle East peace process has faded. It is Washington and Tel Aviv which seem to have the pace now

Map representing Palestine, in yellow (credit: European Commission)

From the peace plan to colonization?

Presented at the end of January, jointly by the American President, Donald Trump, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the peace plan entitled “ From Peace to Prosperity, a vision to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples », intended to settle once and for all the Israeli-Palestinian quarrels which have undermined the Middle East for more than 70 years. He advocates a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine), but poses solutions that are as many problems: Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Israel as guardian of Palestinian security, and the Palestinian state remains landlocked, fragmented (Read: The six points of the American Middle East peace plan that are problematic). But the new government of national unity, led by B. Netanyahu (Likud, right) and Benny Gantz in coalition (Blue-White, center right) takes up part of this plan, starting with the annexation of part of the West Bank.

What is the European position on the American plan?

This plan is rejected by the European Union (read: The American peace plan for the Middle East in violation of international law denounces the European Union), as well as by the member states of the Arab League. But one or two Member States have a different opinion on this plan, notably Hungary. Budapest makes it clear loud and clear that they find this plan a good starting point, thus departing from the traditional European position (see box).

What does the new annexation change for the peace process?

For European diplomats, annexation is a “ major change », notes a connoisseur of the file. Once the annexation was made, “ it would be much more difficult to achieve a two-state solution even as provided for in the American peace plan. This will undermine what little trust remains between the two sides, and will be seen as aggression by Palestinians and Arab countries in the region. This annexation is vigorously rejected by some Europeans, such as the Luxembourg Minister of Foreign Affairs (Read: The annexation of part of the West Bank by Israel is illegal. Like that of the Crimea (Jean Asselborn)). Others are quieter.

What are Europeans afraid of?

If Israel begins annexation, the risk of clashes will increase, recognizes an expert on the file. It is difficult to predict whether the Palestinian Authority will support riots or prevent people from becoming violent against Israel. Currently, she recommends avoiding revolts. But the risk of a third antifada is very present. Annexation has consequences for the entire Middle East region, because we cannot predict the reactions of the different actors and the Arab 'street'.

And what about security cooperation?

The Palestinian Authority responded to the announcement of annexation in mid-May by ceasing its security cooperation with Israel (exchange of intelligence, police presence in zone C, etc.), essential for the latter, to have a control over the occupied populations and territories, as well as with the United States.

What will the European Union do if the colonies are annexed?

It's the unknown. The European Union does not have many cards to play, apart from launching a diplomatic offensive. The debate started several weeks ago to plan a response in advance has failed. Sanctions against Israel seem unlikely. Because we need the unanimity of the '27'. And many states have ideological, political or economic proximity to Israel. In mid-May, once again, the High Representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, asked “ Urges Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would result in the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory ", but this call is not supported by Austria and Hungary (Read: Israel must not play with international law warns Josep Borrell). The European objective of seeking to avoid any annexation measures seems difficult.

Why is this Israeli-Palestinian question so sensitive?

Each Member State inherits a past which dictates its conduct of international relations today. “There are 27 states, all very different in size, history, diplomatic traditions, alliances, etc. "," on a subject as difficult as this, there have always been a significant number of different opinions ", almost as many as there are Member States, explains a senior European diplomat, a good expert on this issue. Positions vary just as much between personalities from the same side as between different political parties (see box).

(Aurelie Pugnet)

As many Member States as there are positions

Except for support for the internationally recognized parameters of the Middle East peace process (negotiated solution, providing for the peaceful coexistence of two States (Israel and Palestine), with Jerusalem as the capital of the two States, meeting the security imperatives of both , Europeans are very divided.

B2 grouped the 27 into three categories, according to their affinities with Israel or for the defense of the Palestinian cause. From the most “pro-Palestinian” of the group, without being anti-Israel (Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Malta, Spain, Portugal, etc.), passing the middle group (Belgium, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, France , Slovenia, Germany), to the most “pro-Israeli”, without being anti-Palestinian (Netherlands, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic and Hungary). Read : Between Israel and Palestine, the hearts of Europeans swing…

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