The European Union’s Blind Eye

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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EU decided that meetings with Russia about a newpartnership agreement would be postponed "until [Russian] troops have withdrawn tothe positions held prior to 7 August", that is, until the Russian military occupation ofGeorgia (outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, at least) had ended.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 OccupiedPalestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) and had been for many years – Lebanonsince 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EU would have refused to enter into negotiation with Israel aboutbecoming a partner until all Israeli troops had been withdrawn from Lebanon, Syria andthe Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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

For example, the Barcelona Declaration, which established the Euro-MediterraneanPartnership, obliges its signatories to "respect the territorial integrity and unity of each ofthe 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 wasfailing to "respect the territorial integrity and unity" of its Lebanese and Syrian partners in1995, when it signed the Barcelona Declaration containing this obligation. But the EUturned a blind eye to Israel’s breach of the partnership agreement at the time it signedthe 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 anEU partner, even though today Syrian and Lebanese territory remains under Israeli militaryoccupation 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 theparties to them, including Israel, to abide by generally recognised principles ofinternational law.

It is our contention that Israel has been, and still is, guilty of contravening generallyrecognised 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, despitethem, 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 "respectthe territorial integrity and unity" of its partners, which Israel has failed to do throughoutthe life of the Partnership in respect of Lebanon and Syria – since it has occupied parts oftheir 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 todo throughout the life of the Partnership – since it continues to contravene more UNSecurity Council resolutions than any other state in the world. The EU has turned a blindeye 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 EUmarket. According to Article 2 of the Agreement, "respect for human rights anddemocratic principles" is an "essential element" – not an optional element, nor adesirable element, but an essential element.

There isn’t the slightest doubt that Israel has continuously failed to live up to theseobligations, the most recent example being its economic strangulation of the people ofGaza in 2007/8, which the EU itself described as "collective punishment", contrary tointernational humanitarian law. But the EU has again turned a blind eye to abuses ofinternational humanitarian law by Israel and refused to contemplate a suspension of theAgreement 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 Arabminority in Israel and to move towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in theMiddle East. Here is the conclusion of a European Commission report on Israeli progresspublished in April 2008.

"Issues raised in the framework of the political dialogue included inter alia: the peaceprocess, 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 theseparation barrier, administrative detentions, the dismantling of outposts, theenvisaged 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 decidedon 16 June 2008 to "upgrade" its relations with Israel.

Download (pdf file): ipsc_eu_submission_2008.pdf

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