Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Europe Urged to Step into Breach of Failed Mideast Peace

Inter Press Service

The Oslo peace process has failed and Europe must take stronger leadership in the Middle East, according to a distinguished group of former European leaders that is pushing for a stronger and more independent European stance on the Israeli occupation.

And some United States analysts believe the European Union’s current leadership may heed the call.

A recent letter from the European Eminent Persons Group (EEPG) to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, is deeply critical of both the EU’s and the United States’ approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and calls for specific steps to try to save the two-state solution.

The letter was signed by 19 prominent Europeans – amongst them seven former foreign ministers, four former prime ministers and one former president – from 11 European countries, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Latvia.

“We have watched with increasing disappointment over the past five years the failure of the parties to start any kind of productive discussion, and of the international community under American and/or European leadership to promote such discussion,” the letter said.

Specifically critical of the U.S.’s role, the letter also stated that President Barack Obama “…gave no indication [in his recent speech in Jerusalem] of action to break the deep stagnation, nor any sign that he sought something other than the re-start of talks between West Bank and Israeli leaders under the Oslo Process, which lost its momentum long ago.”

The EEPG criticised what they referred to as “the erasing of the 1967 lines as the basis for a two-state (solution).” They called for changes in EU policy and some specific steps to promote peace.

They called, among other points, for an explicit recognition that the Palestinian Territories are under occupation, imposing on Israel the legal obligations of that status; a clear statement that all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 border be recognised as illegal and only that border can be a starting point for negotiations; and that the EU should actively support Palestinian reunification.

The notable leaders also called for “a reconsideration of the funding arrangements for Palestine, in order to avoid the Palestinian Authority’s present dependence on sources of funding which serve to freeze rather than promote the peace process,” an acknowledgment that the often praised “economic improvement” in the West Bank has been built on international donations and is not sustainable.

The timing of the letter, sent just after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent trip to the Middle East, was a clear statement that the EEPG does not believe the current round of U.S. diplomacy is likely to achieve significant progress. The letter has received only moderate publicity, yet EEPG’s co-chair, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, believes that the recommendations of the Group can get the long-dormant peace process back on track.

“We have had an acknowledgement from Ashton’s office to say that a response is being prepared,” Greenstock told IPS. “The letter recommends a strategic change, which is a big ask. The first step must be to start a more realistic debate about the poor results from recent policy.  We then hope that our recommendations will get a good hearing.”

Greenstock also expressed confidence that EU leadership can not only contribute to reviving diplomacy but can also help the United States realign its policies toward a more productive track.

“The EEPG recognises that a U.S. role is indispensable,” he said. “But the current American stance is unproductive.  We believe the Europeans can at least lead on exploring some alternatives, which could in the end be helpful to Washington.”

Hard-line pro-Israel voices have long insisted that only the United States should be mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and leading neo-conservative pundit, sharply criticised the letter in his blog.

“This letter is a useful reminder of European attitudes, at least at the level of the Eminent: Blame Israel, treat the Palestinians as children, wring your hands over the terrible way the Americans conduct diplomacy,” Abrams wrote.

“The Israelis will treat this letter with the derision it deserves, and the Palestinians will understand that because this kind of thing reduces European influence with Israel, the EU just can’t deliver much. Indeed it cannot, and the bias, poor reasoning, and refusal to face facts in this letter all suggest that that won’t be changing any time soon.”

But Paul Pillar, a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Programme who spent 28 years as a CIA analyst, thinks Washington might welcome a European initiative along the lines suggested by the EEPG.

“I don’t think that European activism along this line would cause a great deal of heartburn, political or otherwise, in the White House,” Pillar told IPS. “Of course for the United States to take the sorts of positions mentioned in the letter would be anathema to the Israel lobby, and thus the United States will not take them.

“But it would be hard for the Israeli government or anyone else to argue that merely acquiescing in European initiatives is equivalent to the United States taking the same initiatives itself. If the EU were to get out in front in the way recommended by the EEPG, President Obama would say to Netanyahu and others – consistent with what he has said in the past, ‘I have Israel’s back and always will.'

“But as I have warned, without peace we are likely to see other countries doing more and more things that challenge the Israeli position.’”

Chas Freeman, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former president of the Middle East Policy Council, believes the EU has lost patience with U.S. policy in the Middle East and that Israel will soon need to contend with an EU that is more demanding than it has been in the recent past.

“The international community has long since lost confidence in American diplomacy in the Middle East,” Freeman told IPS. “Europe is not an exception, as shown in trends in voting at the United Nations.  The ‘peace process’ was once the emblem of U.S. sincerity and devotion to the rule of law; it is now seen as the evidence of American diplomatic ineptitude, subservience to domestic special interests, and political hypocrisy. Europe no longer follows American dictates.

“The EU has its own divided mind. Israel must make its own case to Europeans now.  That will not be easy.”

Greenstock believes the urgency of the moment can lead to firm European action. Asked why the EEPG members are taking bolder stances now than when they were in office, he said: “When most of the signatories were in office, there was still some hope that Oslo-Madrid could produce a result. Time and a lack of recent effective action has changed that.  Almost every observer now thinks that the prospects for a two-state solution are fading.  Hence the urgency.”

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Donald Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr is the focus of a growing controversy over the Robert Mueller report because his decision to unilaterally declare that the the president had not obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is the president’s senior adviser, whose dealings with the Persian Gulf leaders have come under scrutiny for conflicts of interest.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

President Trump’s announcement that he would recognise Israeli sovereignty over the western part of the Golan Heights destroys the negotiating basis for any future peace between Israel and Syria. It also lays the groundwork for a return to a world without territorial integrity for smaller, weaker countries.


The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


RightWeb
share