The EU-Israel Association exposes the bloc’s reliance on the occupation state

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets then-Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in West-Jerusalem (Anadolu Agency)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  September 29, 2022

Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association agreement states, “Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.” When it comes to Israel, however, the EU’s disregard for human rights and democracy becomes even more blatant. According to that clause, the agreement should be suspended because Israel clearly fails that requirement on a daily basis.

However, after banning Russian gas imports, the EU needed a replacement supplier. In June, it duly signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel and Egypt which was described by the European Commission’s Chief Ursula Von Der Leyen as “an outstanding step bringing our energy cooperation to the next level.” In July, the EU announced that it would convene a council meeting of the EU-Israel Association. It was described by EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell as an opportunity to “engage with Israel” about Palestine. Really? Palestine is actually the furthest issue from the minds and expectations of both Israel and the EU.

This is not the first time that Israel has stepped in to mitigate damages and bolster its diplomatic ties in the process. From aiding military dictatorships in Latin America when the US thought it wise to retreat to the sidelines, to humanitarian missions, Israel has been at the helm, building a false benevolent image even while it oppresses the colonized Palestinian population and invites the international community to be complicit in that oppression.

Even as the EU is preparing for the meeting, Israel is treats EU diplomats with contempt. Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Sven Koopmans has once again been refused meetings with Israeli officials, notably Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

Earlier this month, when the EU announced its preparations for the EU-Israel Association Council meeting, Koopmans penned an op-ed which justified the EU’s disregard for the terms of the agreement, rather than seeking ways to hold Israel accountable for its colonial expansion and violence. “As Israel’s neighbour, historic friend and largest trading partner, enjoying excellent cooperation in technology, education and much more, we care,” wrote Koopmans. “Europeans understand Israel’s security concerns. The EU strongly supports Israel’s right to fight terrorism, within full respect of its international human rights obligations.” If he is not aware that Israel is constantly in violation of international law and has also committed war crimes, then he is in the wrong job.

Now that the EU’s blunder in sanctioning Russia has led to an energy crisis, Palestinians are facing more humiliation from the EU. The purported EU support for Palestinian NGOs and families at risk of forced displacement by Israel will continue to provide opportunistic PR for the bloc and its two-state diplomacy. This is a façade, a thin veneer of respectability that only remains relevant because there is no political will to oppose Israel. With the Abraham Accords in the bag, the normalization of Israel’s settler-colonialism, violence and apartheid has become acceptable, thus ensuring that more countries engage diplomatically and economically with Israel, always at the expense of the people of occupied Palestine.

If this EU-Israel Association council meeting goes ahead — for the first time since 2012 — any possible mention of the Palestinians on the agenda will only be perfunctory. We can only hope that the Palestinian Authority will not take such insignificant rhetoric as proof of EU support. The bloc needs no further encouragement to continue doing nothing.

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