The postponed vote on the deepening of EU/ Israel relations

Press review- week from December 1 to 5, 2008

This week, the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Brussels in the framework of the submission to the European Parliament of a proposal to strengthen the relationship between the EU and Israel. However, while the vote was scheduled on Thursday, MEPs voted to postpone the vote of assent to this agreement.

Tuesday, while the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni was speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU Parliament on the progress of Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians, French MP Daniel Cohn Bendit interrupted her asking: « How can you talk of progress when Palestinian children are detained at checkpoints and can not go to school? « , reported the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The same day, European lawmakers told Mrs. Livin that her country should do more to stop settlement expansion that threatens the efforts of Israeli-Palestinian peace. The minister also met the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the issue of Israel’s participation in European programs in the areas of customs, environment and health among others.

The Palestinian News Network pointed out that the French foreign minister had noted that « Livni rejected the European requests to lift the siege imposed on Gaza and open the crossings. » The Vice President of Parliament believed that « Israel did not take its commitments seriously. » The PNN notes that the expansion of Jewish settlements had weakened Israel’s position in front of the Europeans.

In an AFP article, Mr Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, stressed during a meeting with European diplomats that « while the EU discusses a tightening (with Israel), the level of poverty in Gaza has never been so high « because of the Israeli blockade. He also noted the continued colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories, the maintenance of military roadblocks and demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel, despite the revival of peace negotiations in November 2007 in Annapolis.
« The message you send to the Israeli electorate is to say that the EU strengthens its relations with Israel regardless of his behaviour, » said Mr Fayyad to diplomats, while new elections are scheduled in Israel for 10 February 2009. Mr. Fayyad had already sent a letter to the EU in late May urging not to deepen its ties with Israel, which led him to severe criticism from the Hebrew state.

For the Algerian daily El Watan, it is a « reward for aggression » that the EU would offer to Israel and could « torpedo the Union for the Mediterranean« .

On Wednesday, December the 3rd, MEPs voted to postpone the vote on Israel’s participation to community programs. According to the parliamentary group of the Greens, this delay was justified by the fact that the situation in Israel and Palestine has not changed in accordance with commitments made at the Annapolis conference and that the vote is a means of pressure of the European Parliament to push for concrete progress in the peace process and improve the situation in the occupied territories and especially in Gaza. This report was supported by the EUL (European United Left), the Greens and ESP (European Socialists Party) but also by some Liberals and members of the European Popular Party (EPP). A (small) majority of MEPs voted for the postponement of the vote: 194 MPs for the report (all left and some members of right) and 173 voted against.

« The honour of Parliament is saved, » said Veronique De Keyser, deputy of the European Socialist Party in the European Parliament, on her personal website.