Plenum of the EMPA and the situation in Israel/Palestine

Press review : week from October 13 to 17, 2008

Very few commented by the press, the Plenary Assembly of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Mediterranean took place on the shores of the Dead Sea last weekend. As announced, the theme this year was the aftermath of the summit on July 13 last and the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The EMPA has expressed the desire to be part of the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean as its parliamentary institution, and proposed the draft of a legal text in this direction. « Our Assembly should play a monitoring and proposals role within the framework of the UPM, » said Tokia Saïfi (European People’s Party), chairman of the Committee on Political Affairs of the EMPA. These recommendations were made in anticipation of the next Euromed Foreign Affairs Council scheduled for November 3 and 4 in Marseilles. (Press release of the European Parliament; Recommendations of the EMPA).

In addition to these recommendations, the EMPA also discussed the situation in the Middle East highlighting some issues. First the President of the European Parliament and President of the EMPA accentuated the importance of donors of the EMPA, which represent 60% of aid to the Palestinians. Hans-Gert Poettering encouraged countries not to cut their generosity, not to be discouraged. He highlighted the difficulties of the Palestinians to restart their economies, pointing two demoralizing factors: the settlements on the one hand, many obstacles to their mobility on the other. The attention of parliamentarians was also asked to development projects implemented in pilot areas in the West Bank and Gaza to revive the Palestinian economy (EMPA Declaration).

Parallel to these declarations, the international press highlights the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories and Israel. In the West Bank, the Palestine News Networkinformed yesterday that the IDF had killed three young Palestinians in three days. TheHerald Tribune underlines that these events take place in a climate of rising tensions between settlers, army and Palestinians. According to the Israeli army, these three young people were all about to use firebombs. Saeb Erekat, personality close to the government in Ramallah, qualified the reaction of the Israeli army « unacceptable » and putting in harm the peace efforts of the PA.

More unusual, the violence seems now also to spread into Israel. In the city of Acre (Akko) where Jewish and Arab communities seem to live side by side in a climate of mutual understanding, an incident showed the past weekend the deterioration of the situation. On the night of October 8 to 9, an Arab motorist transgressed the prohibition of movement linked to the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Considering that act as a provocation, young Jews attacked the driver. And the cycle of retaliation began, causing anti-Jewish riots and then anti-Arab. Le Monde says that the situation is coming from the arrival in recent years of religious Jewish settlers from the West Bank and even Gaza. The Arabs in the city of Acre consider repression and expropriations taking place in the wake of riots as an attempt of ethnical cleansing trying to reject all Arabs outside the city, reported Haaretz.

If the spiral of revenge takes over on the negotiations, the political situation particularly weak in both countries will not succeed to stop it. The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly stressed the importance and urgency of the situation, but its message does not seem sufficiently heard and listened.