Monday, July 13, 2009

EU Policy on the Peace Process: Where’s The Adult Supervision?

By Barry Rubin

One of the reasons why Israel is so suspicious of negotiations efforts is that “friendly” Western countries and institutions seem to feel no obligation whatsoever to live up to their past commitments to Israel, commitments on whose basis concessions have been made and risks taken.

Now Javier Solana, the European Union’s chief diplomat with long experience in peace process mischief, has proposed a new plan. A deadline will be set for creating an internationally recognized Palestinian which would be made a member of the UN. There would be a timetable for settling all issues of borders, refugees, Jerusalem, and so on.

What is the obvious result of such a scheme? Knowing that it would get a state even if it does nothing gives the Palestinian side every excuse for…doing nothing.

This is precisely the reason why Israel has been insisting on making clear the principles of such a two-state agreement—Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, settlement of refugees within the Palestinian state, an unmilitarized state, and adequate security guarantees—before agreeing to any such outcome.

So eager are the Europeans and the U.S. government to give the Palestinians a state that they don’t demand the Palestinian Authority does anything to prove its own reliability or indeed to make any commitments whatsoever. In short, they get the prize for free and then are asked if they are willing to pay something. Presumably they won’t

What makes this approach so, well let’s say it, insane, is that it serves neither Western interests nor promotes regional stability, not to mention Israel’s own rights and requirements. To create an unstable state, unbound by any commitments, and give it full international standing is a formula for ensuring the conflict is never resolved and increasing the level of violence and bloodshed in the area.

Aside from this, Solana’s proposal contradicts every agreement of the last 20 years, including most recently the Road Map, which the EU has endorsed, because these state that only an agreement negotiated by both sides would produce such a state as part of a comprehensive solution.

In other words, when the Palestinian Authority remains intransigent and doesn’t fulfill its commitments, it acts knowing that the Europeans and perhaps United States will rewrite the rules in its favor. Israel’s interests, which after all include its very survival, are ignored.

The Solana proposal will not be adopted. But let’s remember he is not some undergraduate writing a paper for a course but the EU’s highest-ranking diplomat. In theory, this makes him the second-most important international mediator, after the U.S. secretary of state. Perhaps he doesn’t really intend this proposal to be adapted; he’s merely currying favor with the Arab and Muslim worlds. But that’s the point, isn’t it? He’s playing games with our lives.

With such irresponsibility at the top of democratic states and supposedly seasoned senior diplomats, should anyone blame Israel for being skeptical and indeed disgusted with this whole process?

This is one of the reasons why Israel’s government rejects a freeze on construction on settlements and sees any two-state solution as the final step after an agreement is reached on key issues. If Western countries show there is adult supervision over their foreign policies, perhaps we will really make progress some day.

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