The general consensus is that there will be no change at all in US policy towards Israel, following Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election. Senator Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect, has, if anything, gone further than the Republicans in proclaiming uncritical loyalty to Israel. “My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head,” he told the National Jewish Democratic Council in September.
All the more crucial then, for the EU to refuse to embrace the occupation, which goes against its core principles and interests, not to mention legal commitments under European and international law.
But the EU's standard procedures for dealing with European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) candidates do not apply to Israel. It seems reasonable to ask why not.
Despite no change in Israel's continuing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the EU announced last June that it planned to intensify relations with Israel.
The EU's action plan for Israel is set for just three years (the standard for most is five), and all conditionality standing in the way of meteoric progress has been hollowed out.
Some EU member states support the upgrade without posing any conditions beyond a single bullet point in the action plan – a vague reference to human rights. Israel is thus set to become a semi-member of the Union without any legal obligations.
Nor is there any reference to the territorial scope of the EU-Israel agreements. Israel has made it clear that it will not sign any agreement with the EU if the scope of its application specifically excludes the occupied Palestinian Territories.
What this means is outrageous: every agreement the EU makes with Israel must apply not just to Israel qua sovereign entity, but to the occupied territories and illegal settlements as well.
This also means that the more the EU intensifies relations with Israel, the more it ties itself politically and economically to an illegal occupation.
The Israeli occupation should be put to an end through the effective enforcement of international law. Accepting Israel as a European neighbour without conditionality ensures exactly the opposite. Europe's involvement with the occupation comes with a price tag attached: the EU is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Territories.
It is not clear why it is a European interest to accept Israel into its middle without making the end of the occupation a condition. In effect, the condition that Israel itself sets for its integration is that the EU accepts an entrenched military dictatorship as part of the deal. Can Europe really accept that?
Israel should be pressed to stop dragging its feet and accept the EU requirement that a formal sub-committee on human rights be created in the ENP process. The EU also needs to ensure that the Israeli settlement economy is specifically excluded in any trade agreement made with Israel.
The goal of a ‘Greater Israel' should therefore be an unambiguous no-go to upgrading relations between the EU and Israel.
Hilla Dayan is an Israeli political scientist working for United Civilians for Peace, a Dutch group that campaigns for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
5th of November 2008
On the separation regime
The Israeli separation regime is unprecedented and unique. It emerged in the early 1990s with the long-term goal of separating populations politically. It evolved into a system, which continues to deny a group of people collective and individual rights by extraordinary means. The Israeli regime of separation creates conditions of extreme fragmentation and differentiation among groups of people. The split worlds of citizens under a democratic regime and subjects under military occupation are managed and controlled by one sovereign power, the state of Israel. Lacking legitimacy, the regime relays on coercion to split subjects, both physically and administratively. The Israeli regime of separation is a laboratory experiment in creating, enforcing and legitimizing realities of separation, contested and unacceptable as they are.
Guest:Hilla Dayan is an Israeli sociologist living in the Netherlands, who recently graduated with distinction from New School University, New York. Her Ph.D dissertation “Regimes of Separation: Israel/Palestine and the Shadow of Apartheid” analyzes the emergence and evolution in 1990s of domestic borders and border mechanisms such as internal travel permits in Israel/Palestine as a regime of separation. She is the co-founder of the foundation "gate48" in Amsterdam.