The new directive bars all dealings with Israeli-held areas over the pre-1967 lines, which may sound like more of the same old same old, but the devil is in the details.
A dramatic new directive published by the European Union bars its 28 members from all cooperation with Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The directive, sent out on June 30 and set to take effect on Friday, extends to “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes” to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
It also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel henceforth include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel.
Did you get that? In any contract between the two parties, Israel will need to sign a clause divesting itself of parts of its own capital and its own historic heartland, Judea and Samaria, commonly mis-labelled the West Bank. in other words, the EU is politely asking Israel to take itself back to the 1949 Armistice Lines (there never was a border there), lines called “having something of the memory of Auschwitz” by Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, in 1967.
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.”
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry were reported to be in “great tension and anxiety” over how to respond to the territorial clause, which is likely to be a stumbling block in Israel-EU relations.
That must be the understatement of the century.
The new directive, initiated in December by the EU foreign ministers, is “in conformity with the EU’s longstanding position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and with the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied territories, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law,” the EU said in a statement.
I will get to this issue of “international law” further on, but the fact that the EU implicitly recognizes that the settlement’s status in Israeli law is different than their own recognition, and yet they still demand that Israel revoke that status, stinks of condescending colonialism towards the pesky natives.
In an Army Radio interview, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin called the decision worrying, and said it would strengthen the Palestinians’ stance — reducing their motivation to compromise with Israel in peace efforts.
Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said the directive underlined “how disconnected” Europe has become from the realities of the Middle East and that its policies proved Europe could not play a sensitive, effective role in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.
Ayelet Shaked, from the religious-nationalist Jewish Home, said Israel needed to be strong and determined, and “will not take directives from Europe.”
I am very concerned indeed that our wimpish spineless prime minister – yes, I mean Binyamin Netanyahu – will indeed accede to the EU’s demand.
Israel’s left issued predictably reacted in shock-horror and dismay.
In contrast, Labor’s Nachman Shai blamed misguided “forces in our government” for turning the international community against Israel through their settlement policies. These forces were gradually “costing us our independence,” said Shai. “The world is putting us under siege.”
I don’t think Shai, or any of his left colleagues, have internalized the fact that short of committing national suicide there is nothing that will satisfy most of the international community.
Some anomalies in the directive have already been spotted:
[…] For example, officials were seeking to determine, would the EU henceforth halt all cooperation with the Hebrew University, for instance, since it employs staff who live beyond the 1967 lines, at the draconian limit of the directive? Or, at the other extreme, would implementation prove near-impossible, and ultimately have little effect on the ground?
There has been some push-back from Israel already:
One Israeli official told Haaretz that “we are not ready to sign on this clause” [acknowledging that areas beyond the Green Line are not part of Israel] in future agreements with the EU, and said that pushing back could cause a “halt to all cooperation in economics, science, culture, sports and academia” with Europe, which “would cause severe damage to Israel.”
Haviv Rettig Gur has a nice analysis of how the EU’s directive demonstrates its flawed grasp of the conflict, although he is much too kind when he calls a possible result of the decision – surrendering the Kotel – “accidental”. There was nothing accidental about this decision, and the EU would be crowing in triumph if Israel was forced to surrender one of Judaism’s holiest shrines in the name of economics. In fact this is one of the oldest tropes of classic Antisemitism – portraying the Jews as willing to do anything for money, even giving up their birthright.
The directive contains two main planks: denial of European funding to, and cooperation with, Israeli institutions based or operating over the Green Line, and a requirement that all future agreements between Israel and the EU — and possibly between Israel and individual member states as well — include a clause in which Israel accepts the European Union’s position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel.
Even the details of the directive aren’t new. On December 10, 2012, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council stated that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
But the fresh directive is still sending a shock wave through Israeli diplomatic circles — not because anyone is surprised about the position it takes, but because of the precision with which the EU indicates it is to be implemented.
“They crossed a line,” a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel Tuesday. “That the EU won’t sign an agreement with Ariel University [in the West Bank] is no secret. But now they are going to force the Hebrew University to promise that no scientist working on a program [that enjoys EU cooperation or funding] lives over the Green Line,” including in apartment complexes down the street from the university campus on Mount Scopus — “or in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which has been Jewish a bit longer than the EU.”
“That’s absurd,” the official said. In adhering blindly to the Green Line, he claimed, the EU is in effect taking sides in the conflict in a way that distances its position from that of the majority of Israelis who support negotiations and a two-state solution. Indeed, the move has raised hackles with some on the Israeli left, which usually sees EU institutions as allies in the pursuit of peace.
As another official noted, the EU’s new policy is in effect demanding that Israel deny — in writing — any rights to the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, as a precondition for signing any agreement with the EU.
Ashton’s office tried to explain that the development was a positive one for Israel.
“This is important in view of the new opportunities that will be offered to Israel (as an ENP [European Neighborhood Policy] partner) for participation in EU programmes and other funding instruments in the 2014-2020 financial framework,” read the statement issued to The Times of Israel.
“We want Israel to play a full part in these instruments and we want to be sure that Israel’s participation is not put in question so that Israel will be able to make use of all possibilities offered by the new financial framework,” it added.
Or, in short: This is for your own good, to prevent any future challenges to your ability to get further benefits from the EU down the road…
As I said before, condescending neo-colonialism.
For decades, European bureaucrats have been hard at work building a world of unbreakable rules and regulations. Applied to a messy, unresolved conflict, the decision to apply one set of rules over another — adhering to the demands of the pre-1967 lines, for example, at the expense of major Israeli population centers beyond those lines — would appear to the Israeli critics of the move to involve choosing sides in the larger conflict.
The EU may very well have overstepped their mark, as Gur concludes:
if it does indeed truly seek to implement its latest directive, and condition further dealings with Israel on a government acknowledgement that all territory beyond the Green Line is not part of Israel, the EU may have issued a demand to which few mainstream Israeli leaders will acquiesce.
Earlier in this post I mentioned the issue of international law and the settlements. I have addressed this subject many times before, but Melanie Phillips has written a great rebuttal to this racist EU directive in The baseless hatred of the EU towards Israel with a thorough explanation of the international law involved:
The EU says Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal under international law. Nothing new there – so do the UN and associated bodies say so. But they are simply wrong.
International law in general is known to be highly contentious and far from authoritative, since it is anchored in no single jurisdiction and arguably therefore constitutes nothing other than international politics by another name.
In any event, the charge that Jewish residence over the Green Line is illegal first rests on the application to this situation of the wrong treaty; and second, totally ignores the treaties which gave the Jews the right to settle anywhere in these territories.
To take the second point first. The San Remo Treaty of 1920, in which the victors of the First World War parcelled out the remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire, created a geographical area called Palestine along both sides of the Jordan River.
Article 6 of the Palestine Mandate signed by the League of Nations in 1922 stipulated ‘close Jewish settlement’ on the land west of the Jordan River. The river served as the boundary because that year the UK created a new Arab country, today known as Jordan, by unilaterally bestowing the land east of the river onto the Hashemite dynasty and thus giving some three quarters of Palestine away.
That Mandate treaty obligation to settle the Jews in Palestine from the river to the sea has never been abrogated and endures today. The 1945 UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80 explicitly says than nothing within it shall ‘alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties’.
Now to the main argument mounted by the ‘illegalisers’. This rests on their claim that the Israeli settlements breach Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. But this article does not apply to the settlements. Written in the shadow of the deportation of European Jews to their deaths in Nazi Europe, it prohibits
‘individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or that of any other country, occupied or not…The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’
But none of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line has been transferred or deported, forcibly or not; they all chose voluntarily to live there. (The only force ever used against these residents was in fact when Israel forcibly transferred them from Gaza into Israel in 2005.)
Moreover, the Geneva Convention applies to actions carried out on the territory of a ‘High Contracting Party’ with a sovereign claim to that territory. But the areas in question over the ‘Green Line’ never belonged to any sovereign power. As remains the case to this day they merely constitute no-man’s land, having never been allocated to any ‘High Contracting’ sovereign state. The only treaty obligations ever made in respect of these areas was in fact to the Jews, who were promised ‘close settlement’ of the land in which they were included.
Furthermore, Israel’s ‘occupation’ of these areas is legal twice over – since it merely gained them in a war of self-defence in 1967, and is thus legally entitled to hold onto them until the belligerents stop waging war upon it. Which they still have not.
As for the ‘Green Line’ itself, this is not a legal border. It has no significance other than where the cease-fire line was drawn in the war of 1948-49 when the Arabs tried to destroy the newly restored State of Israel. Indeed, the Armistice Agreements of 1949 stated that the demarcation lines were ‘not to be construed in any sense’ as political or territorial boundaries’, and were not in any way to prejudice the parties’ claims in ‘the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine problem.’
Melanie Phillips correctly identifies Israeli governments themselves as one of the worst culprits in not protecting Israel’s rights in the territories. Their negligence has been shocking and is exceedingly frustrating to pro-Israel activists:
[…] But the fault in large measure surely lies with Israel. For although some may find this incomprehensible, Israel does not make to the world the one case that matters – why Israelis are fully entitled under international law to build their homes in these territories; and exactly how Britain, the EU and the UN have grossly mis-stated and misapplied that international law.
The reason it does not properly make this case is partly through the epic dysfunctionality of the Israeli political class (which could fill many volumes). It is partly through Israel’s isolation in the face of the bully-boys of the western diplomatic world. But it is also through Israel’s bleak and despairing judgement that the international community, composed of those who historically and presently were and are driven by obsessive hatred of the Jewish people and which finds expression for that hatred through vehicles such as the UN and EU, will always do the bidding of those who wish to destroy the Jews and is therefore impervious to reason and morality.
Melanie Phillips also notes the coincidence – or not – of the date of the EU’s publication of their directive:
News of the EU’s act of existential spite against Israel broke on the fast of Tisha b’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple (you know, that Temple, the one that stood in Jerusalem all those centuries ago before any Arabs existed, let alone any Green Line) along with the seemingly never-ending list down through the ages of all those prosecuting their uniquely murderous and baseless hatred of the Jewish people.
Some coincidence. To that list of infamy, the EU can now add its name. For shame.
For shame indeed. Shame on the EU, but also shame on successive Israeli governments which have not succeeded, or even attempted, to explain Israel’s position and the legality of its possession of Judea and Samaria. This negligence has finally come back to bite us on the you-know-where. Perhaps this will be the wake-up call we so badly need to finalise Israel’s position regarding the territories once and for all.
Professor Bill Jacobson at Legal Insurrection similarly addresses the international law aspect of this EU directive, calling it “lawfare” in his post about “The War that Israel is losing badly“:
But there is a war Israel is losing, badly. The lawfare war, the use of false legal premises about the illegality of Israel’s actions to delegitimize Israel generally, and to attempt to force territorial concessions which are not in Israel’s national, religious or security interest.
Whether it is the U.N. Human Rights Council and European judges applying standards on the conduct of war uniquely and exclusively to Israel, or the BDS movement embraced by the Islamist-Leftist coalition gaining traction in science and academia, lawfare is a clear and present danger to Israel.
The directive is based on legal falsehood that the 1949 armistice line (often referred to as the pre-1967 borders) renders Israeli occupation “illegal.” To the contrary, it was Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem prior to 1967 that was illegal:
None of this history matters, politically.
Anti-Israeli groups have owned the messaging for at least two generations.
I don’t know if the lawfare battle is lost, but I do know that Israel is losing it, badly.
The good professor is absolutely right. It’s past time that Israeli governments took the reins into their own hands and began being pro-active in Israel’s defense instead of simply reacting when it’s too late.