26/02/2010

The European Union: an agent of peace in the Middle East?

This last week of February was marked by the visit to Europe of President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, and Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman officially came to Brussels for a conference with the European foreign affairs ministers and to discuss about the Goldstone report. Contrary to Mahmud Abbas, whose arrival in Europe was followed by the media, Lieberman’s visit remained quiet until his arrival. Perhaps the Israeli minister feared requests for explanations from European governments on the matter of « Dubaïgate? (See editorial Medea of February 19, 2010).

It is true that the media dwell more on this event rather than on the real motivation of the Minister’s visit, which was the improvement of relations between the EU and Israel. But the issue of relationships is important in determining the Union’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The peace process in the Middle East was also mentioned during the meetings of Israeli Foreign Minister with Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union. Lieberman has reassured European’s concerns about negotiations’ revival with Palestine. The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said that Israel was an important partner for the European Union. Moreover, it has taken this opportunity to push the Israelis revived the peace process with Palestinians.
A debate on the report Goldstone was held at the European Parliament on Wednesday. However, the presence of a man like Lieberman in Brussels has provoked uneaseness within the European Chamber.

This was expressed by Véronique De Keyser (MEP, PES). The euro deputy recalled the serious consequences of the Israeli attack and Justice Goldstone’s courage to prepare the report to the United Nations. She denounced the policy pursued by Israel to block any response to that report, and recalled that the European Parliament would admit no intimidation. She also spoke about the visit of Mr. Lieberman: « You’re not welcome, not because you represent Israel, but because your racists and xenophobic positions are not complying with European values. » Veronique De Keyser concluded by asking « The light and justice, nothing else. »

It is regrettable that because of the recent events in Dubai, the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not a priority.
In addition, a few days near the entry of Avigdor Lieberman, it was Mahmud Abbas’ turn to arrive in Brussels.
The trip of President of the Palestinian Authority aimed to strengthen international support to defend its interests in the negotiations. He found support from Ministers of Foreign Affairs French and Spanish, Bernard Kouchner and Miguel Angel Moratinos. They had proposed, inLe Monde, that the EU plays a new role in establishing an « agenda for negotiations. »

It would be desirable that the peace process was revived with a new dynamism. Following the lack of success of policies launched by the United States, the Palestinian Authority puts his hope in the EU who would be able to give new impulse to negotiations.
Yet the EU cannot play a double role: if it stands as a force in the negotiations, it must adopt a clear position in its relations with the Jewish state, and must protect the rights Palestinians.

Sophia Vignard