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The European Union’s Blind Eye

How the EU ignores Israel’s failure to fulfil its obligations under EU agreements
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign - Compiled by David Morrison - October 2008

ON 1 SEPTEMBER 2008, the EU decided that meetings with Russia about a new partnership agreement would be postponed "until [Russian] troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August", that is, until the Russian military occupation of Georgia (outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, at least) had ended.

On 28 November 1995, the EU allowed Israel to become a partner, under Euro- Mediterranean Partnership arrangements with states bordering on the Mediterranean. At the time, Israeli troops were occupying parts of Lebanon and Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) and had been for many years – Lebanon since 1978, the rest since 1967.

Clearly, the EU has applied very different standards in its relations with Israel and Russia. Had the conditions applied to Russia in September 2008 been applied to Israel in November 1995, the EU would have refused to enter into negotiation with Israel about becoming a partner until all Israeli troops had been withdrawn from Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

THERE IS ANOTHER extraordinary aspect to the EU’s relations with Israel – the EU has been happy to sign agreements with Israel even though, at the time of signing, Israel has been contravening obligations contained in the agreements themselves.

For example, the Barcelona Declaration, which established the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, obliges its signatories to "respect the territorial integrity and unity of each of the other partners" and a series of other norms of international law.

Lebanon, Syria and Israel signed the Barcelona Declaration and became EU partners in November 1995. At that time, parts of Lebanon and Syria were under Israeli military occupation and the Golan Heights had been annexed by Israel. Clearly, Israel was failing to "respect the territorial integrity and unity" of its Lebanese and Syrian partners in 1995, when it signed the Barcelona Declaration containing this obligation. But the EU turned a blind eye to Israel’s breach of the partnership agreement at the time it signed the partnership agreement – and allowed it to become an EU partner.

And the EU has continued to turn a blind eye ever since and allowed Israel to remain an EU partner, even though today Syrian and Lebanese territory remains under Israeli military occupation and Israeli military aircraft frequently invade Lebanese air space.

THE EU HAS ENTERED into a number of agreements with Israel, beginning with the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership signed in November 1995. These agreements oblige the parties to them, including Israel, to abide by generally recognised principles of international law.

It is our contention that Israel has been, and still is, guilty of contravening generally recognised principles of international law in a variety of ways, contrary to its obligations in agreements with the EU. We document some of these contraventions in this submission. But the EU has continuously turned a blind eye to these contraventions and, despite them, continuously enhanced its relations with Israel, most recently, on 16 June 2008.

As we have said, under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Israel is required to "respect the territorial integrity and unity" of its partners, which Israel has failed to do throughout the life of the Partnership in respect of Lebanon and Syria – since it has occupied parts of their territory militarily. Under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Israel is also required to "act in accordance with the United Nations Charter", which Israel has signally failed to do throughout the life of the Partnership – since it continues to contravene more UN Security Council resolutions than any other state in the world. The EU has turned a blind eye to these failures by Israel and been happy to maintain Israel as a partner.

THE ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT with Israel, under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, commonly known as the Euro-Med Agreement, gives Israel privileged access to the EU market. According to Article 2 of the Agreement, "respect for human rights and democratic principles" is an "essential element" – not an optional element, nor a desirable element, but an essential element.

There isn’t the slightest doubt that Israel has continuously failed to live up to these obligations, the most recent example being its economic strangulation of the people of Gaza in 2007/8, which the EU itself described as "collective punishment", contrary to international humanitarian law. But the EU has again turned a blind eye to abuses of international humanitarian law by Israel and refused to contemplate a suspension of the Agreement until such times as Israel meets its obligations.

SINCE 1995, ISRAEL has been an EU partner in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Here again, Israel is supposed to take steps to promote and protect the rights of the Arab minority in Israel and to move towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in the Middle East. Here is the conclusion of a European Commission report on Israeli progress published in April 2008.

"Issues raised in the framework of the political dialogue included inter alia: the peace process, the situation in the Middle East, the situation of the Arab minority in Israel, restrictions of movement in West Bank and Gaza Strip, the construction of the separation barrier, administrative detentions, the dismantling of outposts, the envisaged expansion of certain Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, more checkpoints. Little concrete progress has however been achieved on the issues as such."

Once again, the EU turned a blind eye to Israel’s failure to make progress and decided on 16 June 2008 to "upgrade" its relations with Israel.

Download (pdf file): ipsc_eu_submission_2008.pdf

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