(July 22, 2013 / JNS) After the Official Journal of the European Union (EU) on Friday published its guidelines stating that all future agreements with Israel will apply only to the pre-1967 lines, Israel expressed concern that unelected European bureaucrats are seizing control of major policy decisions from the continent’s governments.
“Israel must be concerned about the EU’s decision because it proves that the revolution of bureaucrats and diplomats in Europe has begun,” a source close to the EU in Brussels told Israel Hayom. “In effect, instead of governments dictating policy, the bureaucrats are the ones who dictate facts on the ground.”
The EU announcement came despite heavy pressure from the U.S. and Israel to freeze implementation of the guidelines, which govern EU policy toward Israeli entities or their activities beyond the pre-1967 lines and go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. On Thursday, a day before the guidelines were published, the EU’s office in Israel said that Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had all telephoned European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the guidelines.
Israeli embassy officials in Brussels who are charged with maintaining contact with the EU tried to fish out certain details of the document weeks before it was published, but to no avail. Sources in Brussels said a small coterie of diplomats in the European Commission’s Middle East Department had denied anyone access to the document.
“They worked in great secrecy,” a source told Israel Hayom.
On July 17, Netanyahu held talks with a long list of European leaders to protest the development, stressing that it could interfere with the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks—a renewal that was ultimately announced by Kerry on Friday, though a date for the first meeting between the parties has not yet been confirmed. The Israeli government did not issue any official statement on the EU directive, but various government spokespeople have begun questioning Europe’s utility as a player in the peace process, given its latest “one-sidedness and clear bias,” as Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin put it Friday in an interview on Israel Radio.
Going even further, some officials in Jerusalem, such as Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, are sounding warnings about “Europe’s unexplained obsession.”
“Someone needs to explain to them that there are other, more pressing matters that they should busy themselves with,” Lieberman said. The former foreign minister has suggested taking drastic action, such as excluding the EU from anything having to do the peace process and discontinuing all contact with it on the Palestinian issue.
Elkin is now echoing these sentiments, saying that Israel must not succumb to Europe’s pressure.
“The not-too-distant past has proved that when you capitulate, you end up paying a much heavier price, such as when Hamas participated in the Palestinian elections for example. If we don’t put a stop to this, we have to consider whether we are interested in Europe’s involvement,” Elkin said.
Meanwhile, 31 Knesset members from Israel’s governing coalition and opposition last Thursday signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they asked him to respond to the EU’s guidelines by starting new construction in Judea and Samaria.