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by Marie Shuqha

Regarding Obama’s last report leaning more against a last-ditch action on Israel at the United Nations, I thought it was time to shed some light on past and recent European attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, Obama had been considering giving a major speech or supporting a United Nations resolution laying out fundamentals for a future peace deal. But officials say discussions have fallen off since Donald Trump’s surprise victory.

Recently, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Army Radio that the U.S. would always oppose unilateral proposals on Israel at the United Nations Security Council, when asked if the United States would veto an upcoming France proposal.

Obama has been very reluctant to upset the status quo in his final months of being president because he mostly wishes to protect his own legacy of support for Israel. Even though he and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have disagreed over many issues during Obama’s time in office, Obama recently signed a deal which has never occurred before, containing a military aid project worth $38 billion over the next decade.

Since it was anticipated that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential race, the Obama administration carefully examined possible obstacle breakthroughs, for example the continued Israeli-settlement-building in the West-Bank claimed by the Palestinians. Clinton, who actively voiced her support for Israel, could have toned down Obama’s words and actions and potentially lure both parties into a peace offering. However, with Donald Trump winning the elections, all those plans are simply off the table.

Having some background information about recent developments it’s time to get back to the EU’s views on the everlasting Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a fundamental interest of the EU. The EU – with the UN, the US and the Russian Federation – is a member of the ‘Quartet‘ which in 2002 launched a ‘road map for peace’ aimed at resolving the conflict. The EU has welcomed the Arab Peace Initiative as a significant contribution from the Arab countries.

The EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.

However, the EU is very much concerned about recent developments which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. The only solution to finally end the ongoing occupation is through an agreement which began in 1967, that ends all ground claims and fulfils the will of both parties. A one-state resolution would not cover the EU’s aspirations. A lasting and final solution must be achieved based on relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the Madrid principles, which include land for peace, the Roadmap, agreements achieved by previous parties and of the Arab Peace Initiative. The Madrid principles or Madrid Conference of 1991 was a peace conference, held in Madrid, hosted by Spain and co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union. It was an attempt by the international community to revive the Israeli–Palestinian peace process through negotiations, involving Israel and the Palestinians as well as Arab countries, including JordanLebanon and Syria. The bilateral Israeli–Palestinian negotiations eventually led to the exchange of letters and the subsequent signing of the Oslo I Accord, on the lawn of the White House on September 13, 1993. The Israel-Jordan negotiations that emanated from the Madrid conference, led to a peace treaty in 1994. The Israeli–Syrian negotiations included series of follow-on meetings, which according to some reports, came quite close, but failed to result in a peace treaty.

If an agreement to finally end the conflict was reached, the door would open to a deepened and enhanced cooperation among all the countries of the region.

The EU is willing to work with its partners to re-launch peace negotiations, based on the following parameters:

  • An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on the 4 June 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties. The EU will recognize changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, only when agreed by the parties.
  • Security arrangements that, for Palestinians, respect their sovereignty and show that the occupation is over; and, for Israelis, protect their security, prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with security threats, including with new and vital threats in the region.
  • A just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee question.
  • Fulfilment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.

That being said, the EU has organized a range of activities, both political and practical and is Palestine’s biggest hope of having it recognized as state based on the rule of law and respect of human rights and holding democratic elections.

In 2013 and 2014, the EU strongly supported the United States Secretary John Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to steer Israeli-Palestinian negotiations into right directions. The EU foreign ministers further signalled their willingness to provide political, economic and security support to both parties hoping it would lead to a final agreement.

Regarding the Gaza Strip, the conflict of 2014 was proof of the unstable nature of the status quo and the need for lifting the Gaza closure regime in line with the United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 of 2009 for an end of threatening Israel.

So what’s the EU position on the Middle East peace process exactly? As said, the EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours. As for now, it still seems that having the EU in the middle of these negotiations, would be the best solution to achieve the much wanted two-state solution.

Let’s take a closer look at EU positions on “final status issues.”

  • Borders: The EU considers that the future Palestinian state will require secure and recognised borders. These should be based on a withdrawal from the territory occupied in 1967 with minor modifications mutually agreed, if necessary, in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1402 and 1515 and the principles of the Madrid Process.
  • Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory: the EU has repeatedly confirmed its deep concern about accelerated settlement expansion in the West Bank. This expansion prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution. The EU considers that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.
  • Jerusalem: The EU considers that the peace negotiations should include the resolution of all issues surrounding the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states. The EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. The EU supports institution building work in East Jerusalem, notably in the areas of health, education and the judiciary.
  • Palestinian refugees: The EU supports a just, viable and agreed solution on this question. We will respect an agreement reached between the two Parties on this point. Since 1971 the EU has been providing significant support to the work of agencies providing vital services to the Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
  • Security: The EU condemns all acts of violence which cannot be allowed to impede progress towards peace. The EU recognises Israel’s right to protect its citizens from attacks and emphasises that the Israeli Government, in exercising this right, should act within international law. Through its EUPOL COPPS mission, the EU supports the reform and development of the Palestinian police and judicial institutions. EU-Israel cooperation on the fight against terrorist financing and money laundering or other aspects of soft security as well as on security research represents a non-negligible practical EU contribution to Israel’s security. Security arrangements should, for Palestinians, respect their sovereignty and show that the occupation is over, and, for Israelis, protect their security, prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats.

Furthermore, EU political support for the Middle East peace process include the EU having a strong political and economic relation with partners in the region including Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. These are underpinned by “Association Agreements” and by European Neighbourhood Policy “Action Plans”.
The EU’s Euro-Mediterranean Partnership / “Union for the Mediterranean” serves as a forum for regional dialogue and remains the only multilateral context outside the United Nations where all parties to the conflict can meet and work together on a range of issues.
Along with Russia, the UN and the US, the EU participates in the Middle East Quartet. The Quartet supported the Annapolis process, which included a specific focus on implementation of the Parties’ obligations under the 2002 Roadmap. In 2009, the Quartet expressed its support for the Palestinian Authority’s plan for building the Palestinian state. HR/VP Federica Mogherini represents the EU at Quartet meetings and conducts dialogue with third countries on the Middle East Peace Process.
Alongside regular consultations with our partners in the region, including the Arab League, the EU Foreign Ministers and the European Council issue regular policy statements as part of a coordinated EU policy.

At last, EU practical & financial support for the Middle East peace process include Humanitarian and emergency response, “state-building” activities, Palestinian economic activity, Border assistance and civil society activities. All this with the main goal of having a two-state solution that works for everyone.