It is time for Europe to change its approach to Palestine | European Union

The recent escalation in Israel-Palestine has also diverted the world’s attention to the 53-year-old Israeli occupation and its systemic violations of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. He also made it clear that the strategies that the European Union has been pursuing for a long time to try to end the conflict and further its interests in the Middle East do not work and may even worsen.

On May 21, a fragile ceasefire led to 11 days of Israeli bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip and Hamas gunfire on Israeli cities in the end, but there is little room for celebration – none of the causes underlying that led to this escalation has not yet been addressed. To help prevent another devastating confrontation, European governments must radically change course. They should adopt a new approach based on international law and multilateralism and move to demand accountability from both sides.

Repetition of old support mantras for two states while requiring two fundamentally asymmetrical sides to enter into direct negotiations will not lead to an advance. Trying to isolate Hamas, or undertake another reconstruction effort in Gaza does not provide a sustainable solution. Any effort that does not take into account the larger picture of the Israeli occupation and structural violence against millions of Palestinians is doomed to failure. Approaches that seek to alleviate symptoms without curing the disease would provide neither Israelis nor Palestinians with more security and stability.

Therefore, any European effort towards Israel and Palestine must first address the occupation and discrimination brought about by the state supporting the conflict.

The responsibility for the recent crisis rests largely on the shoulders of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During his 12 years in power, Netanyahu has consistently pursued divisive policies that have achieved little more than ignite nationalist sentiments and ignite ethnic and religious tensions in Israel. And last month, fighting in the polls after four inconclusive elections and under investigation for corruption, he decided to exploit the long-standing tensions in Occupied East Jerusalem to replace the political bridge in a desperate attempt to stay in power. Instead of detaining violent settlers, the Israeli prime minister has long served as a security force to disperse unarmed Palestinians protesting against the expansion of the settlement and other abuses of rights in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa Mosque – a move that was anything but safe to pave the way for more conflict. and violence.

And it did, with Hamas quickly entering the fight. Taking advantage of the tense reaction to this latest episode of Israeli aggression by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas has used the crisis to present itself as the vanguard of the Palestinian resistance. He began firing on Israeli cities, condemning the international community.

But Hamas-based fire cannot be treated in isolation. The group’s actions can be understood and dealt with effectively only if they are contextualized at the bottom of the tremendous humanitarian crisis affecting more than two million Palestinians currently living in Gaza. The blockade of Israel and Egypt over the Palestinian enclave and the indifference of the international community to it have undoubtedly led us to this recent escalation.

While it is clearly controversial and ultimately self-defending for the Palestinian cause, it cannot be ignored why support for armed resistance is growing throughout occupied Palestine. To date, the PA’s efforts to resolve the conflict diplomatically have yielded meager results, changing little in the lives of the Palestinians. Thus, more and more Palestinians now see resistance – whether armed or not – as their only way out.

The primary responsibility for this falls again on Netanyahu, who has consistently thwarted diplomatic efforts, including the Oslo Accords, which he has personally worked to dismantle since the mid-1990s.

However, the responsibility of the United States and Europe cannot be ignored.

Decades of unwavering U.S. support and military aid – now standing at more than $ 3.8 billion a year – have effectively inflated Israel’s sense of impunity rather than increased its propensity to take risks for peace. . Examples include the outcry with which Israeli settler organizations attack armed Palestinian protesters and occupy Palestinian homes on live television and under military escort. Such actions are a testament to the Israeli system of ethnic discrimination, similar to apartheid, highlighted by Human Rights Watch and many other Israeli and international organizations.

While tensions have continued since the announcement of the ceasefire, there is an urgent need to confront this sad reality.

Netanyahu is now on the verge of leaving office, but those who are prepared to replace him, like much of the Israeli settlement, cannot be credibly described as “partners for peace”. The international community, led by the EU, must recognize this fact and stop providing diplomatic cover for Israel’s divisive, destructive and illegal policies and actions against the Palestinians.

Decades of carrot use to calm Israeli concerns in the hope that a more secure and self-confident Israel will make concessions to peace has failed miserably. Today, there is a growing need to employ staffs in relation to Israeli violations of international law, similar to the pressure that has been used on the Palestinians to generate restraint and force a turn toward diplomacy.

The last round of fighting should serve as an wake-up call for the EU. While daily violence continues in occupied Palestine, despite decades of diplomatic efforts, the profession of European Union support for human rights and fundamental freedoms as indivisible components of its identity is on trial.

Continued occupation is truly a rude memory of the failure of a 30-year peace process actively supported by the United States and Europe. Billions in aid from the European Union have been invested to support the development of state institutions in Palestine. This assistance did not advance the prospects for peace. Nor has it provided Europe with a recognized diplomatic role in the U.S.-dominated peace process. Similarly, while the EU collectively represents Israel’s first trading partner, Europe has been reluctant to translate this into political leverage, even when Israeli actions are routinely condemned by the EU. Meanwhile, individual member states have been actively courting Israel, increasing bilateral trade, arms sales and high-tech cooperation, further undermining the European Union’s leverage and consensus on the conflict.

In this context, it is increasingly common to frame both EU aid to the Palestinians and growing trade with Israel as complicit in the financing of the occupation. While this support helps save lives, pay wages and manage basic services in occupied Palestine, it cannot clearly represent a substitute for political action towards the end of the occupation. If it were to be about strategic autonomy, the EU would need to put the courage to rediscover a political role on Israel-Palestine even if that meant breaking old taboos – that is, revising politics without contact with Hamas. or consider conditionality as well as targeted sanctions vis-à-vis Israel and the establishments.

After decades of following the direction of the United States in the Middle East, the time has come for Europe to sculpt a certain degree of independence from Washington, especially when it comes to Israel-Palestine. Continuing with a common approach will not bring sustainable peace. Instead it will only delay the next inevitable conflagration, while further eroding the credibility of the EU and the US and that of the wider international system based on the rules the two actors profess to support.

Only by reaffirming the role of the United Nations and ensuring that violations of international law are accounted for will the next conflagration be avoided. Only by using a true equidistance between Israel and the Palestinians and directly addressing issues of final status – settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders and natural resources – will diplomacy finally produce results, instead of sustaining a fanciful status quo that serves only to cover impunity for Israel and the continued annexation of Palestinian lands.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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