01/10/2010

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process: a role to take for the EU

The media reported this week on frantic efforts to save the direct negotiations launched in early September between Palestinians and Israelis. Nobody, neither Barack Obama, nor Mahmoud Abbas or Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be blamed for the failure of the negotiations.

Mahmoud Abbas is continually delaying his decision to leave the negotiating table, the deadline being now postponed to his meeting next week with the other members of the Arab League. Benjamin Netanyahu appears to embrace the method of “positive thinking” to persuade himself that he is a man of peace, and that an agreement is possible. No longer able to suffer a defeat, Barack Obama continues on his side to put pressure on Netanyahu for him to extend the moratorium on the settlement for two more months. Besides, rumors unveiled a more than generous offer made to convince Israeli Prime Minister, what was immediately denied the White House.

After a notable absence from the beginning of negotiations, Europe seems also to have come at the rescue of the moribund peace. Following the resumption of the settlement building at the expiration of the moratorium last Sunday, the High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton declared :  » The position of the EU is very clear: settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible » (Declaration of the 27th of September 2010).

Yet the EU does not seem to dare to notify such a « clear position » to its Israeli partner. Israel’s largest import and export market accounting for a third of its external trade, the EU has the levers that could affect the peace process. Instead, Ashton seems to have chosen the easy solution by pushing Abbas to continue negotiations (voir «Catherine Ashton se rend au Proche-Orient » in Le Point, 30/9/2010).

The dynamic between the three traditional players in the peace process is running crazy. The intervention of the EU is desirable, if not indispensable, to save the current round of negotiations and those who are invested in it. Moreover this would enable EU foreign policy to match its ambitions. Let us hope that the EU will now go further than empty formulas.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée

>> On this topic, see also the article by Bilal Benyaich (in French), L’Europe, fantôme dans les négociations israélo-palestiniennes?