As Part of our Monday Talks series, we have conducted an interview with Fulvio Martusciello, Chair of European Parliament’s Delegation to Israel, to discuss about current state of the relations between the European Union and Israel, the violence in Gaza, the controversial ‘nation state law’, EU’s approach to Iran and many other critical matters.
Vocal Europe: The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has stated “no attempt to restart peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians that can happen without an engagement from the US”. Recently President Trump has cut funding from the UNRWA and moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. Given disagreements with the Trump administration on these key points, what does this mean for the EU’s role in any future peace negotiations?
Fulvio Martusciello: The path to follow has already been announced by the declarations of Ms. Mogherini: in order to achieve any important improvement in the peace talks, an engagement by the US is requested. The whole Peace Process is based on the openness to the dialogue and the willingness to cooperate of the actors involved. What we need to understand in Europe is that it always takes two to tango and in order to be push back the MEPP we will need to be serious for both parties as the US should also be serious for both parties. The EU is still considered to be to close to the Palestinians and this can be also se as a setback to bring the Israelis back to the table.
Vocal Europe: After the recent spate of violence in Gaza, the EU urged restraint on both sides. Little has changed with the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which we are regularly warned is getting worse. What are the type of discussions you and your delegation are having with Israel regarding Gaza?
Fulvio Martusciello: The issue of violence in Gaza concerns relatively the Delegation for Relations with Israel, since it lays more in the sphere of competence of the Delegation for Relations with Palestine. However, the EU is against any recrudescence of violence and confirms its willingness to play a key role for peace in the Region. We, as the EU, want to repeat that any spate of violence goes against the most relevant interests of the Middle East: peace and development. Saying this, we must understand that Gaza is not only an Israeli problem but also an Egyptian one and all of most a Palestinian one.
Vocal Europe: Let us now turn to the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar. The EU’s position, as Mogherini has said, is that Israel should reconsider its decision to demolish the village. Recently, as Chancellor Merkel was in Germany she said that it was a matter for Israeli authorities. What is the position now, and why the disagreement?
Fulvio Martusciello: Regarding the case of the demolition of Khan Al Ahmar, I subscribe what Ms. Merkel has said. It would not be correct, by Western leaders, to judge about an Israeli internal issue and we need to fully respect the sovereignty of the State of Israel. One must not forget that we are quick in criticising the domestic policies of the State of Israel while leaving others taking positions that go against the EU principles.
Vocal Europe: The so called “nation state” law, passed in the Knesset, was met with great concern here at the European Union. What is your view of the law and how should the EU, and your delegation, engage Israel on discussions surrounding such controversial topics?
Fulvio Martusciello: The Delegation for Relations with Israel is primarily concerned with EU-Israel relations and the relations with the Knesset. It tends to focus less on the internal factors of either entity. In this manner, new laws passed internally in Israel are typically considered a national issue and outside of the realm of the delegation. As always, the delegation hopes to continue on open communication with Israel, in order to maintain our longstanding relationship of cooperation and friendship. We will not be criticizing the legislative aspect of the Knesset as we do not expect the Knesset to do the same with the European Parliament.
Vocal Europe: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent speech at the United National general assembly had some harsh words for Europe’s approach to Iran. What is the general sentiment in the Israeli government, with which you often engage, towards the EU’s persistence to maintain the JCPOA and trade with Iran?
Fulvio Martusciello: The EU remains committed to the JCPOA. We understand that the issue is a challenge for Israel, and rightly so according to the threat of the Iranian nuclear programme for Israel. This is a matter that challenges not only Israel but also the EU as a whole, the EU member states and the US and in any case the idea is to end the Iranian nuclear programme and the EU is engaged with that and thinks that the best approach is the JCPOA.