Saturday, July 20, 2013

Delegitimizing Israel

The EU tightens economic restrictions on Israel

Or, as the Nazis put it, ‘Kaufen Nicht bei Juden!’
Little noticed, Brussels is tightening the screws on Israel. In its latestguidelines, the EU in effect restricts its economic dealings with Israel to the pre-1967 border. I say 'little noticed' because the decision has received almost no coverage in Europe; but the Israeli government was concerned enough to call an emergency cabinet meeting. As Benjamin Netanyahu sees it, the EU is seeking to prejudice the outcome of any eventual Israel-Palestine settlement by declaring the whole of East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be outside the state. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre calls the rules, which came into effect today, 'an earthquake'.
It's a bizarre decision, even by Brussels standards. The resolution of the frontier is the key to any agreement. By blundering in, the EU risks repeating the mistake it made in Cyprus and disincentivising serious bilateral talks. No one seriously expects that a deal can be reached on the basis of an unaltered 1967 line (or rather, if you think about it, unaltered 1949 line). By putting that idea back on the table, the EU is making compromise more difficult.
I'm afraid this isn't really about peace, though. It's about the EU's natural inclination to one side of the dispute. I've remarked before on this prejudice, and the reasons for it, above all the resentment that Euro-federalists can hardly fail to have for the state which most obviously embodies the national principle.
I am not one of those commentators who refuses ever to criticise the Jewish state. Israel, like all countries, can behave shabbily. Its 2010 attack on a Turkish-flagged vessel in international waters, for example, was legally, morally and tactically wrong. At the same time, we ought to recognise that, in a dangerous neighbourhood, Israel has managed to remain a gloriously cussed and disputatious democracy.
Because it is a democracy, its government will have to sell any eventual deal to the electorate. That places constraints upon it which the EU plainly doesn't understand. Then again, given Eurocrats' attitude to democracy within their own borders, at least they're bing consistent.

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