EU must take stronger action, not just condemn Israel’s policies, officials say

(EuroPal Forum Webinar)

Middle East Monitor  /  November 6, 2020

European and Palestinian officials warned on Tuesday that linking normalisation with the occupation state of Israel with peace between Israelis and Palestinians is naive.

A webinar organised by the European-Palestinian Relations Forum (EuroPal Forum) saw Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh, Member of the Irish Seanad Ivana Bacik, Member of the European Parliament Margrete Auken, Member of the Austrian National Council Dr. Helmut Brandstatter, and Former Member of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Dr. Nasser Al-Sane come together to discuss the recent agreements signed between Arab states, including the UAE and Bahrain, and Israel.

Safieh noted that all Palestinians – including political factions, the academic community, and intelligencia – agree that normalisation was an ‘unwise’ policy that “undermined the Arab approach to peacemaking in the region”, namely the Arab Peace Initiative.

Those who have made the claim that normalisation is conducive to the national aspirations of Palestinians, Safieh explained, and would freeze the process of annexation have been naïve.

Irish Senator Ivana Bacik said the absolute absence of Palestine from the peace deals being made makes it difficult to view normalisation as outside the prism of a “US re-election exercise Donald Trump has designed”. She added that the existence and expansion of settlements constitute the de facto annexation of Palestine.

The EU, she argued, must “stand strong in defence of Palestinian rights”, uphold and apply international law, use available mechanisms to hold Israel to account for violations of international law and engage with Palestinian civil society.

Member of the European Parliament Margrete Auken also stressed that the EU must play a more active role and move from a policy of condemnation to action. The violation of human rights in Palestine must generate a response by the EU and within its member states that places real accountability on breaches of international law. This, she added, would produce a tangible impact that attaches a cost to Israel’s actions and has the capacity to change the status quo.

Analysing Arab public opinion with regards the agreements being made by Middle Eastern governments and Israel, former Member of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Dr. Nasser Al-Sane said the deals are top-down in nature, alienating the public consensus across the different Arab nations. They have zero respect amongst popular consensus within the countries.

Kuwait had “received a lot of pressure to join in [with normalisation]”, he added, but owing to domestic opposition and a more horizontal parliamentary system was able to remain opposed to it.

Agreeing with Bacik, Al-Sane believes the deals signed have no tangible impact on the Palestine question at large and should be seen through their capacity to impact the US elections.