The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office put out a press release on July 18 in which Prime Minister Yair Lapid gloated about the renewal of the European Union’s Association Council with Israel (ACI) after a hiatus of about a decade.
In bold letters, the statement began, “The fact that 27 E.U. foreign ministers have voted unanimously in favor of strengthening economic and diplomatic ties with Israel is proof of Israel’s diplomatic strength and this government’s ability to create new opportunities with the international community.”
The press release gives Lapid a further pat on the back, saying, “The convening of the Association Council will enable Israel to continue to develop its relations with the E.U. to the benefit of Israel’s citizens.”
Is there any substance to all this?
In light of Israel’s diplomatic achievement, will Lapid now expect E.U. member states to alter their voting patterns at the United Nations? Will they become less of a rubber-stamp for resolutions that target Israel as the major human rights violator in the world while ignoring the real human rights violators who submit these anti-Semitic resolutions? Lapid’s spokesman has not yet replied to a request for comment on this question.
Given what we find on the European External Action Service (EEAS) website, the umbrella organization for the ACI, a change is not likely.
That does not mean, however, that there are no benefits to be derived from the renewed relationship. The E.U. Foreign Affairs Council High Representative, Josep Borrell, wrote that the ACI is the highest forum for Israel-E.U. relations. Reviving it, then, might be a positive if it can be used as a lever for change.
However, in the paragraph announcing the ACI agreement, Borrell found it important to write that “the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating,” implying that this is Israel’s fault. The rampant corruption of the Palestinian Authority leadership is apparently of little consequence to the E.U.
Further exploration of the EEAS website reveals other important details that make it uncomfortable to witness how Israel tries to curry favor with the E.U.
The E.U. Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process is Sven Koopmans of the Netherlands. Unsurprisingly, Koopmans favors working towards a two-state solution in accordance with the 2016 U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which demands Israel give up land for an illusory peace with a P.A. that pays people to kill Jews. Nothing new there.
On Koopmans’ Twitter account, we find that on July 4, 2022, he retweeted the Israeli NGO B’Tselem’s lie that, in supposed violation of international law, the Israeli “occupation” regime is kicking people out of their homes in Masafar Yatta in the South Hebron Hills. When one’s only source of information is B’Tselem and one does not avail oneself of an English translation and clarification of the Israeli High Court’s decision to remove the squatters—who have permanent homes in other, legal villages—then one merely fortifies one’s biases. As a diplomat who is supposed to facilitate negotiations between two conflicting parties, it is clear that Koopmans cannot ethically close his eyes to the other side of the story and then claim to be a fair interlocutor.
Lapid’s spokesperson has not yet responded to a request for a comment on renewing diplomatic meetings with an organization whose regional representative accepts the lies told by B’Tselem as truth.
Similarly, no response was forthcoming on whether or not Israel will ask the E.U. to stop funding illegal building and road construction on the part of the Palestinian Arabs. In effect, E.U. financial support is helping the P.A. steal land from Israel.
Also instructive is the webpage describing E.U. projects in Israel. Some are beneficial, such as a grant to help Ramat Gan become a “water-sensitive city.” However, there are other projects conducted by organizations that demonize and delegitimize Israel, such as a so-called human rights education grant to Breaking the Silence, an organization the Education Ministry has banned from schools; a trust-building project between Arabs and Jews run by Combatants for Peace, in which Jews are taught to be ashamed of defending their country; and more. Other groups funded are Peace Now, Molad, Emek Shaveh, Ir Amim and ACRI, all of which vilify the State of Israel.
Is Israel going to take advantage of the next ACI meeting to raise the issue of financial support for such anti-Israel NGOs?
If our leaders do not confront the issues raised in this article, then it is hard to see how reconvening the ACI will benefit the citizens of Israel as Lapid says it will.
Sheri Oz is a retired family and trauma therapist who has lived in Israel for more than 45 years.