Israel: EU undermining its role in peace process

The EU has a lot to learn from the Arab states' handling of relations with Israel, write Bas Belder and Elise Coolegem.

The latest EU Council conclusions on the Middle East peace process (MEPP) are a reassertion of the EU's increasingly hostile foreign policy towards Israel. The EU's absurd aspiration - and obsession - with the MEPP translates into a foreign policy that is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing.

The Council conclusions are not a sudden standalone act. It is a single event in a series of events, which has led Europe to adopt a policy of not recognising Israeli sovereignty over territories within the Green Line (the Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem).

Since 2005, the EU has removed preferential treatment from goods originating from territories located over the Green Line. In 2012, Europe ceased granting import duty benefits from exports originating from over the Green Line in the free-trade agreement between Israel and the EU.


EU agencies each interpreted this decision in their own way, and in 2013 Europe stopped recognising the Israeli agriculture ministry's supervision of organic agricultural goods from the West Bank. As a result, this produce was banned on the grounds that the territory was "unsupervised" and therefore "posed a danger to public health".

We would argue that this indirectly constitutes a boycott - or rather it plants the seed for one. The new labelling rules in themselves are not a boycott, but an EU decision dating back to 1 September 2014 - something rarely mentioned - to stop recognising the Israeli agriculture ministry's veterinary supervision beyond the Green Line, is. In effect, this has led to a boycott of Israeli poultry, eggs and milk exports to EU markets.

This extended the boycott on foods manufactured within internationally recognised Israel and those that use products from Israeli companies located over the Green Line. In order to continue exporting to the EU, companies needed to create two production lines.

One produces goods designated for Europe, using only ingredients sourced from within Israel's pre-1967 borders.

The other one, using materials from both sides of the Green Line, is for domestic consumption and international exports - excluding the EU - that do not have such requirements, such as China and Russia.

While the EU continues its path of differencing between Israel and 'settlement activities', Arab States have started viewing Israel in the regional context - rather than the narrower Palestinian context - as a stable, strong country with which it is beneficial and rewarding to cooperate.

The increasing alignment between Israel and Arab states is out of concern for the growing Iranian influence in the Middle East and its fueling of global and regional terror, destabilising the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the growing ties between Israel and the Arab states could help pave the way towards an agreement with the Palestinians.

He further noted that if leading Arab states encouraged the Palestinian Authority to adopt a more realistic position, this might contribute to stabilising the situation and move towards a better future.

The EU and its foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini have a lot to learn from the Arab states' policy towards Israel. It has proven more successful, rather than the policy of differentiation, which only hurts EU-Israel relations and undermines its position in the MEPP.