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“No logic” to reconvening EU-Israel Association Council, says Al-Haq

Jerusalem24 – The decision to reconvene the EU-Israel Association Council lacks logic and constitutes “an unwise political step,” according to Al-Haq General Director Shawan Jabarin.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell announced last week that EU foreign ministers had agreed to reconvene the EU-Israel Association Council for the first time in a decade. No date for a meeting has yet been proposed.

“There’s no logic,” Jabarin tells Jerusalem24. “The Israelis are killing the Palestinians, confiscating more lands, expanding the settlements: all of these are reasons for the Europeans to pull out of this association agreement.”

The EU-Israel Association Agreement was signed in 1995 and came into force in 2000. Israel canceled the annual talks in 2013 in protest over an EU decision to label products from illegal Israeli settlements and deny them preferential trade tariffs.

For a number of years, individual EU member states have also prevented the meetings from taking place, calling for more progress on peace with the Palestinians before moving towards closer EU-Israel ties.

“The EU by doing this [allows] Israel to continue with its violations against international law, and deepening its occupation,” says Jabarin.

“All roads and paths are open”

The Israeli political establishment was quick to capitalize on the announcement. Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the unanimous vote to reconvene the meetings was “proof of Israel’s political strength.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke on Tuesday with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, during which he expressed “great appreciation” for the decision of the Council to convene the meeting of the Association Council with Israel.

In a statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, Lapid emphasized his satisfaction with the role played by both parties in this regard.  Lapid and Michel “exchanged views” on challenges in the international arena; the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the global energy and food crises; and Israel’s opposition to returning to the nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Jabarin says the EU position that they have agreed to reconvene the Association Council in order to “build bridges” and “find a place of discussions, negotiations and engagement, since all paths with Israel were closed,” doesn’t hold water.

Officially, Israel suspended its diplomatic dialogue with the EU in 2015 over the settlement products labelling policy.

However, Jabarin disagrees this ever really took place. “I think all roads and paths are open with the Israelis and the EU, on all different levels.”

“Playing a role at the expense of Palestinian suffering”

Civil society and human rights organizations have consistently warned against strengthening EU-Israel ties.

In a 2017 letter addressed to the EU and its 28 Ministers of Foreign Affairs, NGO EuroMed Rights called on the EU and its member states to “formulate a robust European response that puts respect for international law and accountability at the center of its policy toward the conflict.”

EuroMed highlighted continued Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories, including policies that privilege the state’s Jewish character over its democratic character through discriminatory and anti-democratic legislation passed by the Knesset.

In 2017, EuroMed called on the EU and its member states to:

  1. Obtain assurances regarding the Israeli government’s intentions before organizing an Association Council.
  2. Refrain from enhancing bilateral relations with Israel
  3. Unequivocally condition the further deepening of relations with Israel on its commitment to progress in achieving peace and common values.
  4. Denounce the Israeli government’s violations of international law Refer to the EU’s differentiation policy during the meeting and in the EU’s concluding statement.

According to Jabarin, the decision to reconvene the Council despite long-standing criticisms from NGOs and doubts expressed by member states themselves is “an unwise political step” that will encourage the Israelis to continue with their violations.

“They [the Europeans] maybe want to show the US that they are ready to play a role,” speculates Jabarin. “But unfortunately, to play a role at the expense of the principles of international law, and at the expense Palestinian suffering.”

“The Israelis will read it as a sign to continue.”

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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