After conferring for two days in Brussels the foreign ministers of the European Union called for “the urgent resumption of negotiations that will lead […] to a two-state solution with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” With a soon-to-be-appointed joint foreign minister and the Americans once again committed to bring about peace in the Middle East, Europe too appears determined to finally achieve some result.
The two-state solution is something most European countries have supported for a long time, so what’s new? Well, for one thing, the Council decrees that it “will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem,” unless both Israel and the Palestinians agree otherwise. A way must be found for Jerusalem itself to become the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state — “through negotiations.”
The Europeans made a point to condemn Israel’s settlement activity, reiterating their position that “the separation barrier [was] built on occupied land” and that the “demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law.” Israel must halt all construction of settlements, says the Council, even when these are justified as constituting “natural growth”.
Israel responded by describing the positions of the Europeans as “extreme.” In an official reaction, the Israeli government opined that the Council ignored “the primary obstacle to achieving a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians: the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table.” Quite true.
“Given the Israel government’s efforts to renew the negotiations,” the Israelis continued, “Israel regrets that the EU has chosen to adopt a text that, although containing nothing new, does not contribute to the renewal of negotiations.” Also quite true. As far as the declaration is concerned, the Europeans have proposed no specific new measures to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the table. Perhaps they are counting on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr Tony Blair, who is still supposed to be our foremost representative in the region after all, to do the heavy lifting? The two met earlier today to discuss whatever progress has been made in the region — which, due to the Obama Administration’s rather unwise approach to the situation isn’t much to speak of yet.