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With annexation on the horizon, Europe must not remain indifferent and apathetic

June 2, 2020 at 6:15 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) holds a joint press conference with High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Council Federica Mogherini (R) at the European Council headquarters within the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Belgium on December 11, 2017. [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

After clinging on incessantly for years, the end is nigh for Europe’s two-statists. Armed with a new mandate, In July this year Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will actively seek to codify one of the most egregious acts of settler colonialism seen in decades: the unilateral annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank.

The de jure annexation of the West Bank is supported by a majority of Jewish Israelis and by roughly 85 per cent of the Israeli Knesset. Though it has been touted by successive Israeli administrations since 1967, it has never been considered a real possibility until now. Rooted in the Allon Plan and accelerated by the Movement for Greater Israel and Gush Emunim, and later by the Sharon Plan and the Drobles Plan, annexation represents significant progress for Israel’s national project. With this progress, comes the ‘official’ death knell for the two-state paradigm. For Palestinians, it represents the further usurpation of the land of historic Palestine, the onset of a new Nakba, and yet another example of the failure of the international community to safeguard their plight. Its likely enactment come July will send shock waves across the world and has the potential to destabilise the Middle East at large.

While US policy on the issue has long been evident and has directly contributed to today’s reality, annexation for Europe presents an important conundrum: what do we do now and where do we go from here?

For observers, the answer to the former is clear. Since the Venice Declaration of 1980, the European vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has centred on the idea of ‘two- states for two peoples’ in accordance with United Nations Resolution 242.

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This idea has operated as the ordering principle for European policy on the issue of Palestine for the last 40 years, and has been formally reaffirmed a number of times through the European Union’s support for the Oslo process and through its declarations in Venice, Berlin and Seville, for example. On the ground, European support for a Palestinian state has manifested in an institution-building process that has seen the EU and its member states contribute over $10 billion to the Palestinians since 1994, representing the EU’s highest per capita foreign aid program.

With annexation compromising Europe’s work towards the realisation of a viable Palestinian state, the EU must now acknowledge two fundamental realities as it seeks to agree on how to move forwards. The first is that the empirical record has long illustrated Israel’s disinterest in, and active violation of, a viable two-state solution based on international law and the ‘1967 lines’; any attempt to present Israel as an active partner in peacemaking amidst its efforts to annex, will fall on deaf ears. Second, given the former, it is high time for the EU to rid away with ‘soft diplomacy’ and put to use its leverage through the use of aggressive sanctions as a means of coercing Israel into reversing its plans. Prospective measures could include a total ban on settlers entering Europe, and the suspension of both the EU-Israel Association Agreement and participation of Israel in the Horizon Europe research and development program.

Though for Israel’s European apologists – Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic – the mere talk of sanctions represents a European ‘double standard’ on the question of Israel, the reality is the polar opposite. Europe’s inability to even consider a sanctions programme targeting Israel is evident of a European policy that rather than single out Israel for undue criticism, routinely elevates it above the laws of man and deals with its actions with impunity. This can clearly be seen in the EU’s willingness to impose economic sanctions on Iran, or on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea, yet fail to even consider sanctions in cases applicable to Israel. As Jean Asselborn noted last week in an interview with Israel Hayom: “We [Europe] are banking on prevention.” This indifference from Europe with regard to intervention against Israel has come as no surprise to observers, however. Indeed, for years the bloc has failed to adequately uphold its ‘differentiation’ policy separating between Israel and its illegal settlements in line with international law and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

While sanctions against Israel should be a staple of a new, effective EU foreign policy moving forwards, amidst annexation this must also be accompanied by an understanding in Brussels that Palestinians are living in a one-state reality of perpetual conflict and occupation under a single apartheid state. The two-state paradigm that has for so long been the backbone of its policy towards the region, is now officially dead. With this shift away from the Oslo framework, Europe must end its paralysis and accept that the only foreseeable course of action is to support the Palestinians’ struggle for equal rights within a binational state. In this fight, Palestinians must be rehumanised and supported vehemently at all levels of society as they seek to transform the one state that does exist between the Jordan and Mediterranean.

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