Papers: EU ‘Earthquake’ Directive Underscores Europe’s Irrelevance in the Region

July 17, 2013 8:48 pm 28 comments

The European Parliament in session. Photo:

Analysts and pundits have continued to weigh in Tuesday on the European Union “Earthquake” directive that sent shock waves through Israel after it was revealed that the EU would issue new guidelines on EU business with Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Two weeks ago, the EU issued the directive, disclosed to the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper yesterday, requiring all 28 European member states to ban all funding, collaboration, scholarships, research grants and awards to Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The rule also requires that any future agreements signed with Israel must include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the sovereign State of Israel and therefore are not part of said agreement. The directive goes into effect in 2014.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the ruling was an “earthquake” which unprecedentedly turns “understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line” into “formal, binding policy.”

As the report reached Israel,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an urgent cabinet meeting, following which he slammed the initiative, stating: “We will not accept any outside diktat about our borders.”

While Israeli officials reacted to the news with disappointment and confusion, today, the global news media weighed in on its significance.

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post wrote that she wasn’t surprised by the EU’s position. In an Op-Ed, Rubin writes that the EU has a clear anti-Israel bias–a bias that makes it an otherwise insignificant player in the Middle East peace process: “This is an old story for the European Union — it strives for relevance but its anti-Israeli tendencies make it particularly unsuited to play any constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

This conclusion was echoed by Israeli Knesset Member Silvan Shalom, who told the BBC: “Europeans are making a big mistake once again. They always would like to play a key role in the peace process but once again they are showing us that they cannot play a key role because they don’t have a balanced attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If they would like really to help the peace process, they should not come with those decisions and those ideas.”

“I would like to remind my friends the Europeans, that … the Israeli government in the past took many decisions to evacuate settlements and they didn’t need Europeans to show them what to do,” Shalom said.

Rubin also takes the U.S. to task for its silence, saying that the EU is a corrosive voice in the Israeli- Palestinian Arab conflict.

“If the United States made clear that such behavior is entirely unacceptable, some of the Israel bashing might stop. Whether at the United Nations or in direct conversations with our European ‘friends,’ this should be a topic of conversation. It is evidently not, so we naturally see the anti-Israel fervor increase.”

The Jerusalem Post similarly agreed with Rubin in an editorial, writing that the move shouldn’t come as unexpected, but arguing that it was more indicative of the mood of the “street” than of EU officials: “Many of the anti-settlement steps under consideration – from labeling settlement goods to the new guidelines restricting financial grants to entities operating outside the Green Line – are driven by the street.”

The Post agreed with Rubin, however, that the move can only have a negative impact on the peace process: “The irony is that these very steps, promoted by those who see themselves as peace advocates, could actually work contrary to moving the diplomatic process forward.”

The Post further writes that the stalled peace process risks falling dormant, as the new guidelines provide “a disincentive for the Palestinians to negotiate because of a belief that if they just wait long enough, the world, led by the Europeans, will get their solution imposed on Israel.”

Palestinian Authority officials met the news with mixed reactions.

“The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace,” Palestinian Authority Official Hanan Ashrawi, told the BBC.

But another senior Palestinian Authority official told Israel Hayom on Tuesday that many in Ramallah were dissatisfied with the European Union’s decision.

“For our part, we approached a number of [European] Union officials, in the [Palestinian] Authority and also in Israel, to try and prevent the decision or at least to keep it unofficial,” said the official, who declined to give his name. “It’s not just Israeli companies that are going to be hit economically, it’s also going to be disastrous economically and socially for the Palestinian community.”

Tablet magazine claims that despite the hubbub, the new guidelines really aren’t that significant: “Member states don’t have to abide by this,” an EU diplomat explained to the website. “It applies to EU-funded programs, and to EU programs as such. It doesn’t apply to national programs. So concretely, if France wants to fund the Ariel college, it can do it, and it’s not violating any European law.”

Furthermore, the EU diplomat said  ”guidelines do not address trade, i.e. products originating in the settlements” and “explicitly exempt all Israeli national authorities, like ministries and government agencies.” For example, “the Israeli Authority for Antiquities, which is based in East Jerusalem, is not affected by this commission notice.”

Tablet reaches much the same conclusion as the Washington Post and the Jerusalem Post; the new guidelines are the EU’s largely symbolic attempt to send a message to the Israelis, no matter the resulting fallout.

“Bottom line,” writes Tablet, “these regulations hardly seem the diplomatic ‘earthquake’ some have called them, let alone ‘economic terrorism,’ as Naftali Bennett has dubbed them. Rather, they are a largely symbolic shot across the bow, making explicit what was already the EU’s unwritten policy, and reflecting growing frustration within Europe at Israel’s settlement practices.”






  • Anti-semitism is on the rise in Europe although subtle. I think it’s going to get worse as the Muslim population increases. I’m really afraid about the future of Europe.

  • Paul Winter

    What should be of prime concern is that all of the pundits are agreeing with each other about how insignificant the EU advisory really is. It displays the attitude of not the street, but of the unelected, unanswerable aparatchiks of the EU bureaucracy. Talking about the irrelevance of the EU bigots and how it would be best to have it stranded on the sidelines misses another point: the cynical, self-serving meddling of Israel (often Jew) bashers who want to ingratiate themselves with the Arabs, the third world and the self-appointed, self-nominated corp of “right-thinkers” of the left. That includes the USA, the US, the UN, Russia and a great swag of “humanitarian” NGOs. The two simple messages that even foreign office types with PhDs should be able to grasp are that (1) the conflict, like any conflict, has to be resolved by the protagonists, not by their patrons and (2) the conflict is both religious and cultural – a conflict between a supremacist creed and a tolerant one and between a democracy and a cabal of totalitarian regimes.

  • No more Jewish ghettos. Jews can live where they want, especially on their own land.

  • Bernard Ross

    Israel should use this opporunity to cease all EU projects in YS. furthermore, the only way that Israel can demonstrate that jewish settlement is legal is to embark on a massive jewish settlement program. There is no reason why past treaties and agreement involving european nations binding legal commitment to jewish settlement should be ignored and allowed tobe reneged upon. BB mouths platitudes but as usual is a hot air balloon.

  • Oscar S. Malamud

    The EU decision is based on: 1-They are afraid of the reaction of their own daily growth of the muslim immigrant population ( many extremists);2- As the international press said, not only thee Jewish population in the West Bank will economically suffer, most of the workers in construction, agriculture and industry in the West Bank settlements are the arabs themselves.3- If the measure is implemented, they will loose the benefits of their population to participate in the achievements of Israel’s technical advances, academic studies and flow of food, provision of electricity, and other basic services provided as well.

  • I am a strong believer in the Bible and Israel (which I know most of you aren’t). God gave that land to Israel from the Jordan River and Golan Heights to Israel, and it is to Him they will someday have to give an account of their anti-Semitic words and behavior. Stealing land within a sovereign nation and blatantly giving it to someone else is not their right, it would be like taking part of the EU and giving it to a non-EU nation. You and I both know that would not happen. Obama’s behavior is reprehensible but typical of his foreign policy. It is a reproach to God himself.

    • Your belief in the bible and other nonsense demonstrates that are in need of a brain transplant.

      • Tabitha Korol

        Not speaking biblically, but he’s right on this issue: Stealing land within a sovereign nation and blatantly giving it to someone else is not their right.
        Would you allow Canada to steal land from us? Would England be allowed to steal some from Ireland? Wales?
        Israel is a sovereign nation and that’s the crux of the issue.

  • Herman Gershon

    If the White House does not repudiate and reject this outrageous statement by the EU it is because our worthy president is silent for good reason. He agrees with them but is unable to say so outright. Let him prove otherwise.

  • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

    Most appropriate to call the move irrelevant.
    The Palestinian lawfare initiatives cannot and will not affect the fundamental existential principles upon which Israel functions.
    The settlements are legal from a variety of viewpoints, obviously opposed by a variety of political bodies, all of which are as consistent as the way the wind blows.
    If the intention is to affect Israel’s booming economy, its overseas trade, the aim is deemed redundant by Israel positive trade figures, constantly on the increase. Israel’s scientific, technological advances, all of which are integrated with the settlements, directly, but mostly indirectly, cultural values etc., will not be affected by a thoughtless political bias circus.Palestinian strategists know all these too well and, once they shall be forced to negotiate, all such irrelevant artifices shall be proven redundant. Simple political logic !! Am I going to worry in my sleep over it !! No bloody way !!!

    • Just because something is legal does not make it a wise thing to do. Its very legal to bet the bank in poker holding a pair of threes but its pretty darn stupid.

      By the way, dressing arguments up with pretty polysyllabic words doesn’t add anything to true content.

      • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

        As if the “rationale” of gambling dens could offer a clerer view. So far, speaking of decks – cards or ship’s – guess who swept what with whom when the stakes have been REAL !!
        Palestinians know too well how far their bluff can go, so why not waste more time. As parasites of the international pitty hand-outs, absurd procratinations is just part of their game.
        Meanwhile Israel, as I said, prospers, and their counterparts enjoy a misery of their own making.

        To be continued………..

  • I am a staunch supporter of Israel but I am so opposed to the building of settlements or the expansion of settlements in the disputed territories. In my opinion, nothing comes even close to causing so much damage to Israel’s image. And at what gain? To satisfy and garner the vote of the religious fringe right ….. is it worth it? Absolutely not!

    I have yet to hear one good reason for the expansion of settlements. The only thing I hear is that “we have a right” or “no one can dictate what we do” “This should be discussed at the table” blah blah blah

    Israel, why not take the initiative and just stop doing it of your own accord? The religious right wont be the ones whose kids are dying in battle. They will be safe in their yeshivas, eh?

    • There is a lot of misinformation about “new settlement construction by Israel”, which is confined to areas of land that were to be swapped under Oslo (as opposed to “illegal outposts” constructed without permission by Jewish extremists that are routinely removed).

      There are valid reasons for the Israeli government to be building now in the disputed territories(as opposed to the PA which builds housing only for the elites in its society). With a growing population, and even Israelis evacuated from Gaza who have not been properly rehoused, the Israeli government, frustrated by the PA’s stalling games, is proceeding with construction. Likely, they are also sending the PA a message: to stop finding excuses and inciting the public on flimsy pretexts, like the nonsense about Israel poisoning Arafat with polonium etc., and negotiate final borders in good faith.

      • Lynne, thank you for your informative reply as opposed to the obvious irrational, vocal fringe who talk about it as some “god given right” and that one cannot be a staunch supporter of Israel if you don’t agree with expanding settlements as a policy.

        Although, I do understand your response, I still don’t see it as a good strategy. To build on land that might have to be returned is only a recipe for future problems with the population that will be living there. Furthermore, the best way to urge the PA to sit down is to eliminate those excuses that are not in our long term interests anyway. This allows the United States and the world to apply pressure on the PA without the PA being able to point to us.

        I do respect and understand your opposing view and thank you.

    • So you don’t think that Judea and Samaria have any vital strategic value to Israel?
      So you don’t think that Jews should be allowed to live on privately owned Jewish land like Har Homa, e.g.
      So you think that Israel should hand over the entire Jewish national home’s heartland to a hostile, irredentist political entity which would become yet another failed, embittered, vindictive, destabilising force in the region?
      Wow, what a staunch supporter of Israel!!

    • The Jews have a right to to live anywhere they want in Judea and Samaria on lands not already owned. We are no longer limited to ghettos, including the “Green Line”. There’s two reasons right there.

      The world should take the initiative and accept that Jews have a right to self-determination in their own country and can declare their own capital city.

      • Of course. EU has adopted a very racist and antisemitic attitude towards the Jews. They will see especially in Britain and Scandinavia what will happen to them when they are kowtowing to muslims.

    • Here’s some plain talk for Plain Talk:

      As long as the “P”alestinians believe the rest of the world will ensure they get what they want, their best strategy is to avoid negotiations since in serious negotiations they will have to make concessions to get some of what they want. This is why Obama’s tilt toward the “P”alestinians was guaranteed to produce the negotiation vacuum that has occurred these last four-plus years.

      It is only when the “P”alestinians believe that time is not on their side that they have an incentive to settle sooner rather than later. For them to believe this, Israel, or the rest of the world, must be doing something that they will regard as pointing toward a loss. The rest of the world has actually encouraged “P”alestinian intransigence, so that leaves Israel to provide the incentive.

      Since the “P”alestinians are so concerned about getting as much land as they can, any measure Israel adopts that threatens to yield less land for the “P”alestinians than they want provides an incentive to resolve the problem sooner rather than later.

      Establishing new Jewish communities, what the world calls settlements, that stake a claim to land fits into this strategy rather well. What has kept it from working is “P”alestinian confidence that the world will insist that Israel withdraw from those places.

      Should the international community ever get serious about achieving a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it will have two choices: either endorse Israeli settlement activity or abandon involvement in the conflict altogether.

      Either way, as long as the “P”alestinians believe time is on their side, there is no solution.

      • yale,

        As the great Dr. Phil would say “Yale, this strategy of building and expanding settlements in order to get the PA back to the negotiating table, how has it been working for you all these years?”

        That’s the real Plain Talk ….. Outside of creating the worst possible image of ourselves to the rest of the world, it has done nothing. Actually it has done something … it has allowed short-sighted politicians to get the religious right vote. Not a good return at all if you love and care for Israel’s future.

    • then you are not a supporter of Israel. the so called “occupied terrirotries” are liberated terrirtories. Muslims got a country for Arabs in region(by the way there is no palestinian nation, the term was used by Arafat 1964 for Egyptian and syrian people who illegally crossed the border to British mandate in 1929).
      Israel had to get the whole Judea and Samaria, Gaza and part of Libanon. Because of the attack Israel accepted armistice. And Europé as usual ,betrayed Israel.
      Judea and Samaria are Israel. Arabs who live there are Jordanians, it is their country, though it was also part of Israel, because there were Always Jews living there and often in majority.

    • It gets harder and harder to discern whether comments like yours come from avowed Socialists, self-hating Jews or the infinite number of branches of Islam that agree about absolutely nothing except their blind hatred and age-old schemes to slaughter every Jew into oblivion.

    • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

      In terms of genuine plain talk, both Israel and the newly concocetd palestinians shall arrive at a juncture called PEACE when the palestinians shall accept Jews in their midst, just the way Israel has been accepting no less than over 20% non-Jews of the “paelstinian” type among them.
      Look at it both ways, because ther is no …other way.

  • David Lawton

    I think this type of EU decision is why most English people from the UK want to come out of this none elected body of arrogant misfits

    • Paul Flaherty

      I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of David Lawton. We, the British people, want out of the EU for many reasons, with their increasingly rabid antisemitic standpoint not least among them. Where is their action on the de facto occupation of the northern part of Cyprus? Not a peep from them on that issue. Then there is talk of allowing Turkey to accede to the EU. Turkey is a country that still refuses to acknowledge the genocide committed against the Armenian people. And there is no talk of the desecration of Christian holy sites in Kosovo since the formation of that statelet. These issues all fall within the European sphere of influence yet there is nothing but silence from the EU on these matters. However, they feel it falls within their remit to interfere in another sovereign nation’s internal affairs. Now that is chutzpah!

    • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

      For the record, these true arrogant misfits are, in fact, elected. Each EU country holds elections for their EU Parliament rep. members. They do not, however, represent/reflect necessarily their countries’ foreign policies. They represent specific political parties active in their contries.

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