Last week several European countries summoned their Israeli ambassadors to rebuke them over Israel’s settlement-building policies:
A senior European diplomat said the move was coordinated among the governments of the European Union’s five largest countries – Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Consequently, the ambassadors to the first four were summoned by those countries’ foreign ministries Thursday.
The ambassador to Germany wasn’t, but only because German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Israel this week and therefore delivered the message personally to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The senior European diplomat said that in each of Thursday’s meetings, European officials voiced deep concern about the impact the tenders might have on Israeli-Palestinian talks.
This imperialistic move on the part of Europe outraged Israel’s government. In response, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman summoned EU envoys over Europe’s one-sided policies towards Israel:
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered his ministry Friday morning to summon the ambassadors from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain to Jerusalem, in order to protest what he called “one-sided” policies against Israel.
These policies, evidently relating to Israel’s settlement-building, are “unacceptable, and give the sense that they are just looking for ways to blame Israel,” read a statement released Friday by Liberman’s office.
Liberman also instructed his office to tell the European ambassadors that Israel is making a major effort to enable the talks with the Palestinians to continue, and that their countries’ policies harm the chances of reaching a settlement between the sides.
In parallel, Prime Minsiter Binyamin Netanyahu lashed out at Europe’s hypocrisy in complaining about settlements while ignoring Palestinian incitement:
In a scathing criticism of international opposition to Israeli plans to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that expanding already existing Jewish settlements does not impede the peace talks with the Palestinians.
“I don’t think it’s an obstacle to peace at all,” Netanyahu said at an event organized by the Government Press Office in Jerusalem. “Because the fact is that Jews live here on this land. I mean, what do they want, an ethnically cleansed state? They want to uproot people? I don’t think that’s going to advance peace.”
Netanyahu said the move was hypocritical.
“The European Union called in our ambassadors in the EU because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction? When do the Palestinian ambassadors get called in to hear complaints about the fact that security officers in the Palestinian security forces are participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis?”
The prime minister defended settlement building as only happening within urban clusters and said that Israel hadn’t added a new settlement for 20 years.
“The fact that you add a few houses in the existing communities doesn’t change the map one iota,” Netanyahu said. “So this is a bogus claim.”
It is time to “stop this hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said. “I think it’s time to inject some balance and fairness into this discussion. I think this imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace. I think it pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians you can basically do anything you want, say anything you want, incite any way you want, and you won’t be held accountable.”
Addressing foreign journalists and diplomats at the event, Netanyahu also said that condemnations of Israeli settlement expansion during the current US-brokered peace talks are unfair because it was known in advance that construction would continue even during the negotiations.
“We’re keeping in line exactly with the understanding that we undertook at the beginning of the talks,” the prime minister said, asserting that it was “clear that Israel undertook no restraints on construction. That was understood,” he said. “So when people tell me that these negotiations are hampered by this, [they need to remember] that was part of the deal. Unspoken, unwritten, informal, everybody will say that they oppose it, but it was very clear.”
Earlier in the week, a US official denied claims that settlement plan announcement had been coordinated with the US.
Adding to the piling on against Europe’s bias was Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin who pointed out Europe’s hypocrisy regarding other “occupations:”
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin also fired at the EU Friday, citing their “hypocrisy” for another reason: their support of the occupation of Northern Cyprus.
“The EU supports the occupation of Northern Cyprus, because it is an EU member state, but refuses to fund Israel’s communities ‘over the Green Line’,” he stated to Kol Yisrael Radio.
As noted in November, the EU also allows its members to fish in the occupied Western Sahara.
For Europe some occupations are more bearable than others – particular if the others are Jews.
Luckily Israel does not stand alone in its fight against the international double standards regarding building in Judea and Samaria. Julie Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, pointedly asked exactly “which international law says settlements are illegal?”:
In a rare show of support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, Australia’s foreign minister has said that the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal under international law, without waiting for their status to be determined in a deal with the Palestinians.
In an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel, Julie Bishop suggested that, contrary to conventional diplomatic wisdom, the settlements may not be illegal under international law. She refrained from condemning Israeli initiatives to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line or from calling on Israel to freeze such plans, merely saying the fact that settlements were being expanded showed the need for the sides to quickly reach a peace agreement.
Asked whether she agrees or disagrees with the near-universal view that Israeli settlements anywhere beyond the 1967 lines are illegal under international law, she replied: “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”
But since September, when the center-right Liberal Party of Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in Canberra, Australia has been going to great lengths to demonstrate staunch support for Jerusalem’s policy on the international stage. Under Bishop’s stewardship, Australia has changed its voting patterns at the UN in favor of Israel. While under her predecessor, Bob Carr, Canberra often supported anti-Israel resolutions at the UN General Assembly, she has had Australia oppose or abstain from several such measures.
In November, Australia was one of only eight countries to abstain in a vote on a resolution demanding that Israel cease “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories.” Nearly 160 nations supported the resolution. In December, Australia was one of 13 countries that did not vote in favor of a resolution calling on Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the Geneva Convention (169 countries voted yes).
Ms. Bishop also commented on the antisemitic nature of BDS:
Bishop also condemned what she said was excessive pressure exerted on Israel by Western states and civil society, including the threat of boycotts.
“Israel has to be ever vigilant against such tendencies on the part of the international community,” the minister said. While private organizations were free to boycott whomever they wanted, any Australian body that received state funding should be barred from calling for boycotts, she continued.
She also strongly condemned the global anti-Israel BDS movement: “It’s anti-Semitic. It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical beyond belief.”
Good on you Ms. Bishop, and good on Australia for taking a strong stand against hypocrisy, against double standards for Israel and against the antisemitic anti-Israel boycott movement. Australia can take its rightful and prideful place with Canada as Israel staunchest friends in the international community today.
As for Europe’s, it should hang its head in shame at its hypocrisy and perfidy. But I’m not holding my breath.