The development of the EU-Israel relations, based on the exploratory work started by the European External Action Service in May 2010, will be discussed at meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council, which will take place on July 24th.
Last year, in February, the EU and Israel committed, despite the freeze of the upgrade, to further explore the opportunities offered under the current Action Plan and to pursue technical talks in order to identify areas for future cooperation. The practical implementation of those decisions will inevitably lead to the enhancement of their bilateral relations and further integration of Israel into the EU.
In June 2009, the upgrade of EU-Israel relations has been suspended. Since then, the EU has considered the context unfavourable to restarting the process, but the context is no less favourable to the adoption or implementation of any new agreement, would it be part of the current Action Plan or not. On the contrary, the situation has reached dramatic levels: unprecedented settlement expansion and exploitation of resources; accelerated displacement of communities and house demolitions; continue construction of the Wall and of the closure of the Gaza Strip; and increased vulnerability to settlers’ violence, among others.
Further integration of Israel into the EU economic, social, political and scientific structures is not acceptable as long as Israel refuses to comply with its obligations under international law and puts an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories; respects the Palestinian right to self-determination; treats fairly all its citizens and respects relevant UN resolutions with regards to refugees.
Israel’s illegal practices endanger prospects of a sustainable peace
Over the course of the last year and a half, the United Nations, the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the European Council, the European Parliament and various Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs have numerously pointed out that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians are endangering the prospects of a sustainable peace and of the two-state solution. They have firmly condemned, on several occasions, the expansion of illegal settlements and have denounced the legalization of settlement outposts, showing particular concern for the situation in East-Jerusalem and in Area C.
Nevertheless, the Israeli government has refused to put an end to those illegal practices and has refused to abide by its obligations under international law, disregarding the illegal character of:
- the annexation of East-Jerusalem;
- the separation Wall where built on occupied land;
- the exploitation of resources in occupied territory;
- house demolitions, basic infrastructures and sources of livelihoods;
- the closure of Gaza and the collective punishment of its population;
- the targeting of civilians during large-scale military operations;
- the oppressive and discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians in the OPT in the spheres of justice, education, health, housing, residence, freedom of movement, opinion and association;
- the prolonged use of administrative detention without charges or trial, the transfer of detainees into Israeli detention facilities, the practices of extra-judicial killings and torture;
- the policies of systematic discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel i.e. in terms of access to resources, education, services, infrastructures, residency, land ownership and urban planning.
The responsibility of the EU under international law
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in an Advisory Opinion on the Wall, drew legal conclusions both regarding the State of Israel and third parties. The ICJ notably stated that all States are under obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and to not render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. The ICJ also concluded that third parties, and therefore the UE Member States, as parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), have the obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with International humanitarian law.
EU’s obligations under International law, as established by the UN Security Council and/or the ICJ, are also enshrined in Article 3(5) of the Treaty establishing the European Union (TEU), as amended by the Lisbon Treaty, which provides expressly that the Union shall contribute, among other things, to “the strict observance and the development of international law, and in particular of the principles of the UN Charter”.
The EU and its Member States contravene their obligations under international law when:
- They fail to take effective measures to encourage Israel’s compliance with international law;
- They grant funds, under the EU research program to entities which carry out their activities in illegal settlements and which participate in the construction of the Wall;
- They allow trade of settlement products on EU markets. Such trade, which supports the economic viability of existing settlements, as it is not intended for the primary benefit of the local Palestinian population, contravenes EU’s obligation to comply with the duty of non-recognition; and is therefore illegal.
- They allow Israel to expand the scope and implementation of the EU-Israel agreements to illegal settlements. The debate surrounding the recent EU-Israel ACAA agreement illustrates this problem.
EU-Israel relations: a matter of consistency
In order to be meaningful and to transform the EU into an efficient global actor, the political and economical aspects of the EU external action should lack contradictions. This is notably embodied in article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty which establishes that “the Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law”. Article 21 further refers to the obligation of the EU to “ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies.”
In the same spirit, the joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on “Human Rights and Democracy at the Heart of EU External Action – Towards a More Effective Approach” states that “the EU should commit itself to promoting and protecting freedom, dignity, equality and justice for all as a key foreign policy priority. Human rights and democracy must run as a “silver thread” throughout EU external policies”.
In this respect, the European Coordination of Committes for Palestine believes that EU stated position towards Israel and Palestine, as drawn from the EU Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process (May 14, 2012; July 18, 2011; May 23, 2011; and December 8, 2009); the European Parliament resolution on EU policy on the West Bank and East Jerusalem (July 5, 2012), on the situation in Palestine (September 29, 2011), on the Israeli military operation against the humanitarian flotilla and the Gaza blockade (June 17, 2010), on the implementation of the Goldstone recommendations on Israel/Palestine (March 10, 2010); the EU Heads of Mission reports on East-Jerusalem and the Area C (July 2011); the statements of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton (14 of which, since February 2011, condemned settlement expansion); and the local EU statements, is not consistent with the strengthening of EU-Israel relations.