Attendants at a conference on the peace process in Brussels couldn’t believe their ears after what the representative of Israel’s settler party had to say.
The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and MP Marietje Schaake of the Netherlands hosted an event in the European Parliament in Brussels on the European Union’s role in the Israel/Palestine question. I participated in the first of two panels – below are some of my impressions from the day’s events:
This was the third discussion of this sort that I took part in within just three weeks. In that sense, I think that 2013 was indeed a transformative year, with Europe becoming, for the first time, a major stakeholder in the political debate, and not just the bankroller for whatever idea the U.S. promotes.
This understanding, which is shared by all parties, is a result of the publication of the guidelines regarding EU projects in Israel, the intention to label settlement products and the decision by private companies or corporations to reconsider investments in Israeli firms which are located or invested in the West Bank. And while the official line you often hear from the EU is that these are only bureaucratic procedures – a long overdue implementation of its own laws and regulations – one could also detect a certain satisfaction in Brussels from the ability to gain the respect of other players, not to mention winning Israel’s attention for the first time.
Although some of the European measures have been put on hold until the fate of the diplomatic process becomes clear, I do not think Brussels is going to let go, especially since European involvement is very different in its nature from the American kind. While the Israel/Palestine policy in the U.S. is defined and executed mostly by the political echelon – and is therefore prone to constant changes – the EU’s involvement has a lot to do with the bureaucracy, and thus tends to be more consistent. Bureaucrats have a legal framework to work with in the form of EU laws, regulations and trade agreements; and using them as a normative power (one that has the ability to enforce standards and norms on its member states and entities with which it has formal relations) is pretty much in line with what Europe always does. Again, this is very different from the U.S., where it is all about politics...Read More