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Israeli-Palestinian conflict & EU-Israel Association Agreement

flags of Israel and Palestine painted on cracked wall

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Thursday 12 Nov 2015

Article by Nessa Childers MEP

The next steps on the path to a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain as uncertain as ever, against a backdrop of violence and chaos in the region.

The last US-led attempt at pushing negotiations towards a settlement dates back to early last year, and the UN Secretary-General is profiting from this year’s UN general assembly, later this month, to gather the (UN-US-EU-Russia) ‘quartet’ of mediators around the table, together with regional leaders, in yet another multilateral effort to tackle the conflict.

But Israeli prime-minister Netanyahu rejects the pre-1967 ‘green line’ borders as the rough re-starting point to discussions which the Palestinian side holds on to, with broad international consensus, with a view to a settlement of the borders of a future, viable Palestinian state.

Late last year, I supported a highly symbolic vote in the European Parliament, where we passed a resolution endorsing the recognition of a Palestinian state, as part a peaceful two-state solution, in which we joined more than 130 countries.

Yet, through the vagaries of Israel’s parliamentary system, Mr. Netanyahu, hardly a soft-liner on these matters, remains beholden to the Israeli far-right.

Their ultranationalist agenda continues to succeed with the creation of facts on the ground, through settlement expansion, demolitions and an inequitable legal system that, by and large, helps and abets this geographic and demographic encroachment.

This summer, Mr. Netanyahu’s response to a High Court ruling ordering the demolition of two illegal settler buildings in Beit El, near Ramallah – which led to settler attacks against the police, was to announce the construction of 300 more housing units there, plus more plans to build in East Jerusalem.

With every brick that is laid against international law, he is pandering to an agenda that brings us further from a long-lasting agreement to bring peace along feasible borders shared by two states.

Moreover, this ever degrading state of affairs breeds injustice and tension in the daily lives of local communities, which flare up in horrific acts of violence, such as the arson attack at the end of July, which took the life of a one-year old baby and his father in a Palestinian village.

Militant settlement activity has reached such extremes that Mr. Netanyahu now finds himself attempting to control it by using enforcement measures such as administrative detention against a few Jewish extremists. Heretofore, these had been reserved for Palestinians, while settler violence often went unpunished.

While life in the West Bank, where 600.000 settlers now live, continues to be made difficult by an array of restrictions on movement and access to agricultural lands, the siege of Gaza, with its deprivations and three wars, is the only reality children of up to 8 years old have ever known.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners, among whose ranks we count hundreds of administrative detainees and over 150 children, can now be subject to force-feeding if they go on hunger strike, since the Knesset passed a law authorising the practice at the end of July.

The Israeli government must understand that the perpetuation of its stance serves no-body’s interests including its own population’s, in an increasingly volatile Middle East.

It is now my firm position that we must suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, seeing as respect for human rights, as stated in its Article 2, has patently been lacking in the actions of the government of Israel government.

I believe we have the responsibility to face up to this obligation, for the sake of our dignity and of the future of everyone who lives in a region surrounded with violence and uncertainty.

As a Union, our bilateral engagement with Israel cannot continue on the basis of responding to the degradation of an already appalling status quo with continued preferential treatment, in the continuously disproven belief this somehow helps steer its government on the path to a resolution of the conflict.