Saturday, January 14, 2012

EU Report on Israel: Saving the Two State Solution?

By Jonathan Cook

"Nazareth - Already-strained relations between Israel and Europe hit an all-time low this week after a leaked internal European report on the so-called peace process criticised Israel in unprecedented terms.

The document, which warned that the chances of a two-state solution were rapidly fading, appeared to reflect mounting exasperation among the 27 European member states at Israel’s refusal to revive talks with the Palestinians....

In particular, the EU appears to be considering radical moves to push its own agenda in relation both to the large Palestinian minority living inside Israel and to the Palestinians in the so-called “Area C” of the West Bank, which covers nearly two-thirds of the occupied territory and was placed under full Israeli control by the Oslo accords.

Until now, Europe had mainly restricted its criticisms to Israeli activities in occupied East Jerusalem.

Europe’s reluctance to go public with either document indicates the great sensitivity of its proposed more activist role. In the report on Israel’s Palestinian minority, a copy of which has been seen by Al-Akhbar, European embassies warn that “we need to be sensitive about perceptions of foreign interference in issues which Israel sees as a strictly internal question.”....

Using phrases that imply Israel is conducting a policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Area C, the report notes the Palestinian population has shrunk dramatically to only 150,000, compared to as many as twice that number in the Jordan Valley alone in 1967. The Jewish population in the settlements, meanwhile, has grown to 310,000, tripling in less than 20 years.

The 16-page report, which was written by European heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, was leaked to Israel’s popular Ynet website this week and has been seen by Al-Akhbar too.....

The crisis in relations with Europe was one of the main topics under discussion at Israel’s annual ambassadors’ meeting in Jerusalem, held over the Christmas break when Western capitals go into brief hibernation. More than 100 senior diplomats attended, with ambassadors to Europe reporting that they felt “hated and unwanted,” and as isolated as at any time as they could remember in Israel’s history.

The pessimistic, consensual forecast at the meeting was that developments in the region, especially the Arab Spring, have ruled out any progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for at least the coming year.

Netanyahu’s advisers offered their own warnings that the diplomatic impasse would not let up and Israel’s international standing, especially in Europe, was likely to erode yet further."

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