Palestinian boy in school building hit by Israeli rocket attack near Netzarim, Gaza strip. (AFP)

Europe should rethink its aid to Palestine

Following Catherine Ashton’s trip to Israel and Palestine, EU foreign ministers are gathered in Brussels on 22 March seeking to define union policy in the Middle East. According to the Financial Times, it should start by rethinking the question of aid to the Palestinian territories.

Published on 22 March 2010 at 11:44
Palestinian boy in school building hit by Israeli rocket attack near Netzarim, Gaza strip. (AFP)

Baroness Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief, has made few waves with her trip to Israel and the Gaza Strip. She should take the opportunity to rebalance the EU’s failed approach towards the Middle East peace process. If she does not, her visit will have been truly wasted.

Much debate has focused on the EU’s lack of influence over Israel. Last year the EU froze talks over an upgraded association agreement with Israel and shifted its position on issues such as the status of Jerusalem in a pro-Palestinian direction. But the Israeli refusal to halt settlement construction suggests these measures had little impact. The claim made by Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s foreign minister, that the Spanish EU presidency would move the diplomatic track of the peace process definitively towards a final settlement looks little more than overblown bluster. Read full article in Financial Times...


EU still gridlocked on Israel

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By going to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza from 17 to 19 March, the new European diplomacy chief, Catherine Ashton, “has broadcast a clear-cut signal: the EU rejects the draconian method of blocking a million and a half Palestinians in Gaza”, and she “has given to understand that the EU intends to bring more pressure to bear on Israel” regarding the settlements, write five NGO representatives in De Morgen. “But is it really true?” ask the op-ed authors. “The Union is sorely divided over Israel.”

The authors point out that “the European Council of Ministers has decided to put a temporary freeze on closer bilateral relations with Israel, a decision bemoaned by countries like Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Spain”. The latter feel “better cooperation will naturally have a positive influence on Israel’s behaviour. Spain’s last-ditch effort to intensify bilateral relations was categorically rebuffed by Ireland and Sweden, which, together with Malta and Slovenia, feel Israel should first abide by international law.” This rift within the EU is attributable to the “various member states’ fear of losing their influence in the peace process” and to “economic and political interests”, argue the authors, who regret that the EU “finds itself torn between verbal condemnation and the policy it is actually pursuing”.


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