Middle East Monitor / June 15, 2021
In July last year, the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell penned a brief blog warning against Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank. “As someone with a personal connection to the region, I have emphasized, both in my private conversations with Israeli leaders and in public, that annexation would put at risk good cooperation with Israel,” he wrote.
Less than a year later, with the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now leading the opposition, annexation seems to have receded further behind the scenes as far as EU officials are concerned. Congratulations poured in for new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, an advocate of annexation long before the Trump administration made such colonialism possible. Casting aside his previous concerns, Borrell tweeted that he also congratulated Israel’s alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Partnership, security, and peace, according to Borrell, are common ground for EU-Israel relations. With no connection to the Palestinian question, we presume.
Not to be outdone, the EU’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, snubbed recently by Israel on account of Borrell’s remarks during the latest aggression against Gaza, also tweeted his congratulations to Bennett and Lapid: “I look forward to working with the new government of Israel towards lasting peace and security,” said Sven Koopmans. Israel can humiliate other diplomats as much as it likes and still be assured of adulation in return. Likewise, the European Council President Charles Michel emphasized “strengthening the EU-Israeli partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace and stability.”
The EU is running out of euphemisms to disguise the normalization of the bombing of civilians, colonial violence, and violations of international law, of which Israel is guilty. Brussels should do us all a favour and come clean about this once and for all. It would save us the trouble of trying to square the circle of the bloc claiming to support law and order while simultaneously pandering up to the rogue state of Israel.
The EU boasts about its goals of peace, democracy, and human rights, but has for decades prioritized its ties with Israel. It uses the same strategy as the UN that normalizes Israel as a state while overlooking its colonial violence. In turn, the dissociation between settlement expansion and colonialism increases, to the point that colonial expansion and annexation are actually regarded as entirely separate issues.
Bennett’s government is not an alternative to Netanyahu’s; same owners, different managers, that’s all. Annexation might have been stalled under Netanyahu but Bennett will push the agenda forward. The man who has boasted about killing many Arabs in his life will certainly overlook the ramifications of forced displacement. Israel is set on course to eliminate Palestine – a fact which the EU ignores – and fawning over Bennett will not bring Palestinians any closer to their legitimate rights.
Looking on the bright side, the warm welcome extended to Bennett leaves us in no doubt where the EU stands on Palestinian state building; no more excuses will wash. The stalemate which the EU persists in engaging in is clear, as it advocates the two-state compromise while strengthening relations with a government that seeks to usurp all of historic Palestine. That’s the circle that can’t be squared, and Brussels knows it.
The Palestinian factions have all said that they expect the ongoing colonial violence against the people of Palestine to continue with Bennett at the helm. Interestingly, Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh asked pertinent, albeit rhetorical questions, given the PA’s own dependence on external funding for its survival.
As the EU’s purported commitment to human rights is so shallow that it feels able to warm up to the overtly right-wing ideology of Naftali Bennett, when will the Palestinian leadership at least acknowledge that the EU is no ally? Finding “common ground” with Israel’s new prime minister means support for a far-right agenda from which the Palestinians have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America