While the EU made Israel the center of Arab politics by introducing the new French peace initiative as well as labelling Israeli products, Britain sought its way out of the European Union, leaving us all wondering whether this outcome is in Israel’s best interest.
French peace initiative
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius launched in January 2016 the latest peace proposal, a French led international peace summit called ‘the French peace initiative’ to revive the 2 state solution by stating: “France has a responsibility not to let the 2 state solution die”.
Looks like nothing new at first, however, when examining this initiative more closely, reality hits: this is neither a proposal nor an initiative, it’s a pure and clearcut ultimatum. France has been threatening Israel with formally recognising a Palestinian state if this ‘diplomatic effort’ fails. Before Fabius dropped this offence on Israel, he had tried to push for a security council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement activities on many occasions. If anyone wonders, Israel rejected France’s latest “initiative” because it gives no incentive to the PA to negotiate with Israel. This initiative was prominently supported in the EU arena with no one to protest against it.
In parallel to the peace initiative, other efforts to undermine Israel were pushed forward in the European Union. While stressing the bloc had no intention to boycott Israel nor had it been coerced by BDS, the EU ministers insisted the guidelines on labels for farm and other products were there merely to reinforce the EU law and not in order to change anything in the EU’s long held opposition to the settlements. Out of all territorial conflicts in the world, the EU once again managed to single out the Jewish state, even if it meant entering futile discussions about how products should be labelled while neglecting more pressing issues such as solving the Syrian war. That the labelling in reality meant disadvantaged Palestinian workers, didn’t fascinate anyone. As long as these measures could undermine Israel, Palestinians losing their jobs was considered collateral damage. Ironic, since these measures are supposed to help the Palestinian people, I can only conclude that helping Palestinians and creating a Palestinian state don’t always go hand in hand, in fact, it very often stands in the way of one another.
Fortunately, we had some sane voices in the EU parliament such as the president of the Parliament, Martin Schulz stating: “I oppose labelling products from the territories. It will mainly hurt the Palestinians, who make an honest living there”.
And of course, President Mahmoud Abbas hailed EU’s decision and said it signals a clear shift of the EU stance. When asked about the thousands of Palestinian workers, he simply dismissed the problem as a small price to pay for a “bigger cause”.
Having said that, we can clearly deduct from these measures that the EU’s intentions were never to advance the Palestinian cause or improve lives but solely to undermine Israel.
Without Cameron as a prominent supporter of Israel, many argue Israel will lose a major voice in the EU. Jeremy Newark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, fears Britain’s lessened political power will lead to even more restrictive EU policy towards Israel. Cameron insisted: ““When Europe is discussing its attitude to Israel, do you want Britain — Israel’s greatest friend — in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?”
I want to raise two questions: first, why would Britain have lessened political power? Since when is Britain a weak entity? Secondly, what is Britain’s voice really worth in the European Union, given it couldn’t even stop the latest version of “Kauft nicht bei Juden”.
Looks to me, Britain’s power within the European Union is being overestimated.
Maybe it’s time for a new setting where Britain has its power back and where its voice actually counts for something. Until the EU was a reality, Britain has always been US’ most important ally. As Obama is leaving office and Britain is regaining power, this could mean a renewal of old relations from which Israel can actually benefit. While the EU will probably remain with the distorted idea about Israel being in the center of Arab politics, it is time for Israel to form new allies, free of EU’s grip. Britain will be one them.