Rethinking European Foreign Policy in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
The situation in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt) has certainly been a major concern for the European foreign policy,
especially since the Oslo process defined the two-state solution as the only paradigm for sustainable peace.
This framework led the European Union (EU) to narrow its policies and to jointly support both Israel and the newly-established Palestinian
Authority (PA). However, the period between the military intervention in Gaza in 2014 and the adoption of the July 2018 Nation State bill has
constituted a fundamental shift in the legal and factual situation on the ground. This has effectively alienated EU policies from the reality as they
are based on a situational logic that is no longer prevalent.
Sine Qua Non has decided to engage the resulting incoherence, according to the three variables that characterize the present status quo:
A systematic violation of human rights
A direct and/or indirect European responsibility concerning the dynamics on the ground
A sense of urgency resulting from a sustained failure of previous approaches
A systematic violation of human rights
European Commission and the Palestinian Authority, (2016). Joint Strategy in Support for Palestine
A direct and/or indirect European responsibility
concerning the dynamics on the ground
Over the past three decades, the European Union has been developing trade agreements, development aid, humanitarian commitments
and common political practices both with Israel and the PA that purposefully addressed the above-mentioned violations. Overall, the
European strategy has been relying on the two-state solution paradigm, but as highlighted in the Joint strategy in support of Palestine
(2017-2020), the strategy has so far failed to produce a sustainable solution. Currently, given the latest developments on the
ground, the two-state solution appears even less plausible.
On one hand, the EU has been exclusively focusing its support to the establishment of a Palestinian state through state-building policies
and financing directed towards the PA. However, the geographical fragmentation of the West Bank, the lack of democratic
governance within the PA and the effective political separation between Gaza and the West Bank are voiding these policies
of any meaningful effect. While the EU acknowledges such disparities, it refuses to act upon them and is thus reinforcing the status quo.
The resulting isolation of Hamas from any political negotiation, together with the assertion of support to a PA whose legitimacy is
questioned by an increasing share of Palestinians, have effectively erected a barrier of understanding between the EU and the Palestinian
side. Thus, reconsidering European assumptions with respect to Palestinians actors should be a priority.
On the other hand, there are profound incoherences in current EU-Israel relations in respect to the European Union’s
priorities set out in previous agreements. Since the late 1990’s, EU-Israel relations have been defined agreements that, amongst
other things, should have assured that “the EU and Israel share the common values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of
law and basic freedoms.”
Arrangements of this sort intended to establish a common ground of shared principles and values, which have
consistently been neglected by Israel. More recent events involving the recognition by the US of Israel’s capital as Jerusalem or the
recently passed Nation State bill demonstrate the increasing violation of these commitments. Reconsidering the EU’s stance
towards the Israeli government is thus both a priority, and a responsibility.
With “cooperation framework” we refer to the set of norms which tie the EU and a third Country, through bilateral and
multilateral agreements, common policies and shared projects. These are presented in clusters based on their main
activity (trade, research, humanitarian relief…) and may articulate in a range of more specific sub-projects. Given the
different nature and aim of each agreement, they are built on different legal provisions and may be supported by a
variety of funding plans, each presenting its own conditions, obligations and financing instruments.
The initial pillar for the development of cooperation is the conclusion of a bilateral Association Agreement, an
international agreement setting up an all-embracing framework to conduct bilateral relations providing progressive
liberalization of trade and a “close economic and political cooperation”. The common features of these agreements, all
based on art. 217 TFEU, include the institution of paritary bodies taking decisions binding on the parties and, since 1995,
a necessary clause on human rights and democratic principles
A sense of urgency resulting from a sustained
failure of previous approaches
The protracted crisis in Gaza has challenged the resilience of a territory where economic and human capital has progressively dedeveloped.
Recent reports alarm the international community on the dramatic deterioration of condition for the populations and label
the status quo an ongoing catastrophe from all perspectives.
Concerning the West Bank, the Nation State bill has clearly expressed the true ambitions of the current Israeli Administration – which
goes against the previously negotiated position with the EU. While the EU is arguing for land swaps and similar measures aimed at
protecting the territory of a potential Palestinian state, does Article 7 of the Nation State bill “encourage(s) and promote(s)
establishments and strengthening [of settlements]”. This exemplifies the complete denial of the Israeli administration to comply with the
internationally agreed upon steps to reach a lasting peace. European assumptions on an Israeli willingness to achieve
sustainable peace on the basis of their own bilateral agreements are thus nothing but illusionary.
The current Israeli administration’s actions, together with the increasing alienation of the Palestinian ruling class from their constituency,
have proven that the partners in the peace process are neither like-minded, nor willing to cooperate.
Sine Qua Non, in light of the above, argues that the European Union must change its strategy towards Israel and the Occupied Palestinian
Territories and that it should do so in function of its declared principles; as only an adherence to these principles stands a chance
in creating a peace which is based on these principles
Sine Qua Non would like to express its gratitude towards those who helped its team and affiliated researchers to realize this case study, with special thanks to the human rights organization Al Haq, and Belgian think tank Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).
Advocating for a coherent
European foreign policy in
the MENA region