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What defines the EU's relations with Israel and the Palestinians?

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Belgium on 14 March 2019 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Belgium on 14 March 2019 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

As the Palestinian Authority's financial deficit continues to get worse, the European Union has announced that it will be assisting humanitarian endeavours for Palestinians with an additional $24.7 million of aid. Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, declared that the EU will retain its role as "the most reliable donor to the Palestinians."

A reliable donor, however, does not compensate for the absence of a political partner which takes Palestinian demands seriously. The EU continues to distinguish between humanitarian aid for Palestinians and economic relations with Israel, putting the latter at a very distinct advantage.

Mogherini's announcement was made prior to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in Brussels, which she described as "supporting a political objective" with reference to the two-state paradigm. Interestingly, she described EU aid to Palestinians as "an investment in security for the Palestinians, for the Israelis, for the region and for ourselves."

Palestinians, however, do not feel secure. There is a discrepancy between providing for basic necessities, as is the case with Palestinians, while reserving investment opportunities and grants to Israel. The EU may well be the most consistent donor when it comes to humanitarian aid for Palestinians, but it is also, in the words of the EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, the "biggest target for Israeli investment".

READ: Europe holds no moral high ground in protecting Israeli colonialism

Like Mogherini, Giaufret prioritises Israeli security, stating that the EU is "united when it comes to Israel and its security." He also stated, "We need to see an end to the conflict and the occupation, which put at risk Israel's long-term interests."

The EU is blatantly exposing its interest in maintaining Israel's colonisation by focusing solely on ending the military occupation. It is also the reason why security and the two-state compromise continue to define the EU's political objectives. Humanitarian aid will remain a necessity as long as Israel maintains its colonial presence in Palestine, this despite Mogherini asserting that "a two-state solution cannot be substituted by endless technical and financial assistance."

The relationship between the EU and Israel is subject to the Association Agreement which, in Article 2, states that relations "shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement." Needless to say, both parties have failed to exhibit, let alone implement, respect for human rights and democratic principles as far as the Palestinians living within Israel and under its military occupation are concerned. Such clauses exist within parameters that allow an interpretation, rather than the actual meaning of the terms, to drive policies and practices.

READ: UN and EU statements reveal their overt support for Israel

Meanwhile, the most visible aspect of EU-Palestine relations remains humanitarian aid, which is limited, restrictive and nothing other than inadequate compensation for a collective effort to deprive the Palestinian people of their rights. Humanitarian aid allows the EU to deflect attention away from the fact that it helps to prevent Palestinians from demanding and achieving their legitimate right to live across historic Palestine.

The additional aid will undoubtedly provide temporary respite, yet it is also an incentive for Israel to inflict additional violations upon the people of Palestine. As for security, it is not defined by humanitarian aid. Palestinians are constantly threatened by Israel's colonial presence, which also threatens security while perpetuating discourse that points towards the colonised people as the villains of the piece. To define humanitarian aid as an investment in security is an outright endorsement of Israel's agenda, achieved by exploiting the lives of the colonised, indigenous population.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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