The “EU Earthquake” that sent shock waves through Israel on Tuesday is now in its clean-up phase, a day after it was announced that the European Union would issue new guidelines on how to contract with settlements in the West Bank, written to exclude Israel.
Two weeks ago, the EU issued a directive, disclosed to the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper yesterday, requiring all 28 European member states to ban all funding, collaboration, scholarships, research grants and awards to Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The rule also requires that any future agreements signed with Israel must include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the sovereign State of Israel and therefore are not part of said agreement. The directive goes into effect in 2014.
As the report reached Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an urgent cabinet meeting, following which he slammed the initiative, stating: “We will not accept any outside diktat about our borders.”
While Israeli officials digested the news with rage, indifference, and confusion, today, the global news media sympathetic to the Israeli cause is combing through the detritus to determine whether Europe made the right move, while weighing its significance.
Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post wrote that she wasn’t surprised by the EU’s position. In an OpEd, Rubin writes that the EU has a clear anti-Israel bias–a bias that makes it an otherwise insignificant player in the Middle East peace process: “This is an old story for the European Union — it strives for relevance but its anti-Israeli tendencies make it particularly unsuited to play any constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
This conclusions were echoed by Israeli MK Silvan Shalom, who told the BBC: “Europeans are making a big mistake once again. They always would like to play a key role in the peace process but once again they are showing us that they cannot play a key role because they don’t have a balanced attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If they would like really to help the peace process, they should not come with those decisions and those ideas.”
“I would like to remind my friends the Europeans, that… the Israeli government in the past took many decisions to evacuate settlements and they didn’t need Europeans to show them what to do,” Shalom said.
Rubin also takes the U.S. to task for its silence, saying that the EU is a corrosive voice in the Israeli- Palestinians conflict.
“If the United States made clear that such behavior is entirely unacceptable, some of the Israel bashing might stop. Whether at the United Nations or in direct conversations with our European ‘friends,’ this should be a topic of conversation. It is evidently not, so we naturally see the anti-Israel fervor increase.”