The EU's preliminary shift in foreign policy regarding Israel has ignited a furore, with scathing statements accentuating contempt, defiance and a degree of apprehension. As binding directives to member states have forbidden 'funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem', Benjamin Netanyahu and other right wing Knesset members have retaliated by deeming the decision 'racist' and accusing the EU of prejudice with regard to priorities. However, the severing of economic ties fails to feature in the wider picture – last week EuroMed reported a discussion of economic bilateral issues between the EU and Israel, reinforcing the EU's status as the occupying power's 'leading trade partner'.
Netanyahu declared that 'As Israel's Prime Minister, I will not allow hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and our united capital of Jerusalem to be harmed …. We will not accept any external dictates regarding our borders.'
Evoking the Holocaust, construction and housing minister Uri Ariel stated, 'This is a decision marked with racism and discrimination against the Jewish people that is reminiscent of boycotts against Jews from over 66 years ago'.
According to Naftali Bennett, 'This is an economic terror attack against peace. If the Europeans want to be involved in the diplomatic process, they should stop taking unilateral actions'.
The comments are not to be disassociated from Zionist historical processes, evoked in Netanyahu's belligerent statement. Israel's refusal to define territorial borders has proved beneficial to the illegal state, allowing expansion to obliterate traces of Palestinian towns and villages while forcing the indigenous population towards displacement. The fallacy of declaring borders an issue to be discussed with the Palestinian Authority not only undermines Israel's contempt and infringement of international law – it also portrays the deeper dynamics of dependence which maintain the economic stability of the PA, hence the preference of discussing with a weaker political player rather than assuming responsibility for the thousands of Palestinians displaced in order to create space for settlers.
The decision has reinforced Israel's increasing international isolation, exposing the state's retaliatory characteristics as it criticised the EU for taking unilateral decisions perceived to empower Palestinians. Diplomacy and unilateral action have once again proven to be interchangeable terms for Israel, as it continues to insist that any diplomatic form of opposition to the illegal state resulting in actual action constitutes a hindrance to the elusive peace process while it meticulously evades accountability for its atrocious actions throughout the decades. Within Israel's agenda, peace can only be achieved if Palestinians are no longer a permanent presence within the territory. In consistence with the founding of the illegal state, the EU has been selective in applying the boycott so as not to distort the resolution pertaining to the creation of the state of Israel. This effectively means that while apparently willing to restrict Israel's dehumanising policies, the EU, together with the West, will continue to shield themselves from their responsibility regarding the creation of the state, achieved by applying systematic terror and ethnic cleansing upon Palestinians. While the settlements are illegal, the foundations of the state must also be considered in violation of international law.
As the guidelines go into effect today with Israel exhibiting varying degrees of escalating verbal hostility, Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni are seeking to convince the EU of the relevance and importance of discussion between Israelis and Palestinians with regard to defining territorial borders. In Ze'ev Elkin's own words, "This is an overeager bureaucratic process that can have far-reaching ramifications that Israel cannot agree to'. A far-reaching consequence would presumably be in sight if the EU maintained consistency in its dealings with Israel and unequivocally recognised Palestinians' right to land and self-determination.
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