The Electronic Intifada / August 31, 2023
Has the European Union quietly capitulated to Benjamin Netanyahu ?
Back in 2017, Netanyahu was overheard bemoaning how the EU attached “political conditions” to relations with Israel, something which he regarded as “crazy.”
Six years later, the Brussels elite now claims that “our friendship [with Israel] has no conditions.”
At least, that was the line taken by Margaritis Schinas, a vice president of the European Commission, when he visited Tel Aviv in June. A briefing document prepared for his trip demonstrates that he advocated closer relations with the latest coalition that Netanyahu heads, despite how it is the most right-wing since Israel’s inception.
The paper – obtained via a freedom of information request – says that “we can grow our cooperation even stronger.”
SEE TEXT STEERING BRIEF (BELOW) : EU wants to boost cooperation with Israel’s racist government | The Electronic Intifada
“Security” is listed as one of the policy areas in which cooperation can deepen.
The inclusion is significant.
A few months ago, EU envoys in Tel Aviv canceled a reception which Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s brazenly racist national security minister, wanted to attend. Yet the message sent out by Schinas was that the EU still coveted closer ties with Israel’s “security” apparatus.
The main conditions to which EU-Israel relations are subject can be found in an “association agreement.” The agreement – which came into effect more than two decades ago – stipulates that all dealings “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.”
It has long been obvious that the EU is unwilling to enforce those conditions.
Despite its routine violations of Palestinian rights, Israel has been told repeatedly that the EU wants to clasp it increasingly tighter.
The paper – see below – prepared for Schinas’ Tel Aviv trip gives a flavor of just how cozy the EU-Israel relationship now is. It describes Israel as “a true friend, a real partner” for the EU and “an ally on major issues ranging from AI and technology to climate change.”
Israel has never been a democracy for Palestinians. If the latest government succeeds, Israel will not be a real democracy for Jewish citizens either.
Israel’s judiciary has always been an integral part of an apartheid system. Proving itself hostile to basic human rights, Israel’s highest court has even approved the torture of Palestinian prisoners.
The judiciary has nonetheless been too autonomous for the liking of Israel’s most extreme politicians. They are now pushing legislation which would prevent the highest court from striking down decisions aimed at ramping up the oppression of Palestinians.
Rather than criticizing courts which back torture, the European Union is actively seeking a deal on judicial cooperation with Israel.
That message was delivered by Ladislav Hamran, president of Eurojust – the EU agency for criminal justice cooperation – on a visit to the Middle East during July.
A briefing note prepared for his trip stated that Israel had expressed an interest in negotiating a partnership with Eurojust in discussions held during November last year “but unfortunately, there has been no progress since.”
EU officials are “still awaiting a formal show of interest” from Israel via a letter and by appointing a negotiating team. The briefing note – see below – recommended that Hamran should emphasize the EU’s willingness to “start negotiations as soon as possible” in his conversations with Israeli representatives.
In a recent article, I revealed that the EU has a policy of refraining from actions that may offend Israel.
The briefing note for Hamran suggests that EU staff are even tiptoeing around Israel in internal discussions.
It refers to how a separate deal on police cooperation between the EU and Israel had been drafted by bureaucrats. The deal, however, was “not agreed” by the European Parliament and some EU governments “because of territoriality issues.”
Such matters “may hamper the negotiation of an agreement on cooperation with Eurojust,” the note adds.
The “territoriality issues” relate to proposals that the police cooperation deal would cover territories captured by Israel in June 1967. In other words, they actually concern a military occupation.
The draft police cooperation deal would have allowed Israel almost unfettered use of data obtained from the EU side in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Gaza.
Rather than explaining the surrounding questions in plain and simple terms, the Eurojust staff preparing Hamran’s visit seemingly felt the need to use euphemisms.
A similar evasiveness can be detected in a briefing note prepared for a meeting between Hamran and Akram al-Khatib, the Palestinian Authority’s attorney-general.
The note mentions that al-Khatib was “heavily involved in the investigation into the death of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”
While acknowledging that Abu Akleh, was “shot to death while reporting on a raid in Jenin camp,” the note fails to explicitly state that she was killed by Israeli soldiers.
While that fact is not in any doubt, EU officials have resorted to self-censorship. Telling the unvarnished truth is apparently becoming taboo.
David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation