May 27, 2017

EU policy towards the Middle East Peace Process

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European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy in the Middle East has evolved in parallel with U.S. foreign policy. The complementary role played by the Europeans has been most visible throughout the Middle East Peace Process by providing foreign aid to Palestinian institution-building and training to security sector reform. Through a series of official declarations and conclusions, the Europeans have been calling for Palestinian self-determination for decades. With the dwindling prospects of a two-state solution now and a moribund peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, the EU needs to consider more productive political alternatives.

EU position on final stratus issues

The Europeans have a long-standing interest in seeing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in light of the democratic changes sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa. But even before, ever since Great Britain passed the baton to the United Nations at the end of its colonial mandate period (1922-48), European countries have tried to play an impartial and constructive role in bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together to negotiate. The Europeans have remained divided over the means to achieving this end, but all agree to a two-state solution. The question now is whether the relentless Jewish colonization to expand Israel into Palestine has not made that solution obsolete. 

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An incipient European foreign policy was apparent in the 1971 Schuman Document, approved by the European Community (EC) ministers, and which proposed to adjust the borders between the Palestinians and Israel – to the benefit of Israel. While the Schuman Document converged with U.S. policy, Washington was not willing to witness an active European presence and action in the Middle East. The U.S. wanted Europe to act through its policy, proposing nothing that could be viewed as an independent European voice (Gad, 2005: 68). But an independent European voice came three years later after the October War in 1973.

The selective embargo on oil which was implemented on European countries with a pro-Israeli position towards the war was probably the main reason for the shift of European policy. To that end, the EC issued two statements: the first in October 1973 which called for a cease-fire and the initiation of negotiations based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338 (Hill and Smith, 2000); and the second, in a joint statement by the Government of the EEC on 6 November which for the first time condemned Israel's  acquisition of land through force and included the requirement of taking the legitimate rights of the Palestinian population into consideration.

Read the full CEPR memo: pdfEuropean Union Policy towards the Middle East Peace Process