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The moment of truth for EU policy on Israel-Palestine

Whether European states follow through on their threats and warnings over the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar will determine a great deal about the EU’s relevance and its ability to influence Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Palestinian, foreign, and Israeli activists try to block an Israeli bulldozer preparing for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian, foreign, and Israeli activists try to block an Israeli bulldozer preparing for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

European powers are going to have to make a crucial choice in the coming week. Two months after five EU states reportedly warned Israel that the demolition and forced displacement of Khan al-Ahmar would “trigger a reaction” from its allies, the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday gave its final stamp of approval for the demolition to go ahead.

Along with the southern West Bank hamlet of Susya, the EU has touted Khan al-Ahmar as one of a few, seemingly arbitrary red lines in Israel’s decades-long policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and expanding its settlement enterprise in the occupied territory (for an explanation why, read Edo Konrad’s interview with Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann). Diplomats arrive in convoys whenever the small, dilapidated villages in ‘Area C’ are on the verge of being destroyed. Statements of condemnation, and occasional warnings, are fired into the ether.

Up until now, that approach has partially worked. But things have changed in the past two years, the biggest difference being that the current White House – whose Middle East policy is being led by unabashedly right-wing and pro-settler figures like Jared Kushner and David Friedman – is no longer concerned with what Israel does to the Palestinians. And if it does care, it is unwilling to even mutter an indication of disapproval.

This means that the European powers, to put it bluntly, will have to decide whether to put up or shut up about their commitments to Khan al-Ahmar. Even if they were to act, they are unlikely to do so as a united bloc due to Israel’s budding friendships with far-right EU governments, who hold effective veto power in the EU’s consensus-based system of foreign policy. Governments would therefore have to step in individually.



Considering how few issues the international community is willing to take a stand on vis-à-vis Israel, and considering that EU leaders took it upon themselves to draw a semi-coherent red line with Khan al-Ahmar, the responses of Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and Italy will be crucial in determining the fate of international engagement on the Palestinian issue.

With the United States no longer interested in applying even nominal pressure on Israel, the European powers, who hold significant economic leverage, will need to prove whether their warnings were actually serious threats or empty words. If they do not react with some sort of sanctions or punitive measures, they will have lost whatever is left of their deterrence in halting the Israeli government’s relentless campaign to make the (EU-backed) two-state solution an obsolete idea.

But such punishments are unlikely to be imposed. Diplomatic threats are hardly ever made with the intention of following through; that is why the consequences are never detailed or hinted at. Israel has long believed that to be the case, and now it gets to test the boundaries of its impunity even further — something it has been doing more and more daringly in recent years.

The result is that the current Israeli government, and the governments that follow, will be emboldened to become even more belligerent in rewriting the rules that govern its behavior: in this case, the rules regulating how quickly it can advance its piecemeal, quiet annexation of Palestine in the coming years.


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    1. Ben

      The Eviction of Khan al-Ahmar Stinks Up to High Heaven
      This is a story about Israel that European newspapers would never publish. Who would believe the Jewish democratic state would present non-Jews with two options for where to live, either next to a garbage dump or next to a sewage plant?
      Amira Hass

      ‘This is anti-Semitic canard, the editor of the British newspaper would say, before shelving a piece that came from the Middle East desk. The editor at the German TV news channel would take one look at the pitch from her reporter in Jerusalem, take fright and say: “Forget about it, do you know how many protest letters and phone calls we’ll get if we broadcast this? They’ll say that we broadcast a chapter of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
      Because who could invent a story like this, if not Israel’s enemies? That the Jewish democratic state would present non-Jews with two options for where to live, either next to a garbage dump or next to a sewage plant?….’

      Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      A Jewish traitor who calls for sanctions against the Jewish state … The Israeli left is very sick .. This wild village was established without authorization and without a plan of assignment. No civilized country can accept wild constructions. Even the leftist Supreme Court of Israel ordered the demolition of this slum after many appeals.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: But how do I determine who the Real Jews are and who are the Jewish Traitors? Will the Real Jews please stand up? Is this guy Itay Tiran, “widely considered Israel’s leading theatrical actor-director”, who believes BDS is a “perfectly legitimate form of resistance” (
        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-itay-tiran-israel-s-no-1-theater-actor-director-endorses-bds-1.6455655 ) a Real Jew or a Jewish Traitor? I’m confused, can you point me to the guidelines?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Itay Tiran: “If the nation-state law is a reference point, from which you calculate where Israeli society is, then clearly it’s a racist, non-egalitarian law, another step in the nationalist shift taking place here. On the other hand, I say it’s not only bad. Why? Because it forces out a kind of collective subconscious that has always existed here. The Declaration of Independence and talk about equality and values, all those were the self-preening of a colonialist boasting of enlightened liberalism. There are people who still call themselves center-left, and still think that if they put the word equality into the law everything will be all right. I don’t think so. And really, the right’s justified counter argument was, hang-on, but there’s the Law of Return. Why is it that only the nation-state law drives you crazy?”

          Haaretz: So you’re saying Zionism equals racism, no matter what?

          Itay Tiran: “Yes.”

          Haaretz: That Zionism equals colonialism?

          Itay Tiran: “Yes, exactly. So we all have to look at the truth, and then take a side.”

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Jewish traitor…the leftist Supreme Court of Israel…”

        Again, what *planet* are you on?

        The right in Israel is the alt-right in the USA. The left in Israel is the center in the USA. Israel has normalized judeofascism. So Halevy thinks it’s all just fine because, as he likes to say, no one in Israel reads Haaretz and +972. End of problem. No one reads it, so nuthin’ to worry about. And the Supreme Court is “leftist”–the same court that did what Michael Omer Man and Amira Hass describe is “leftist.” Suuuuure. On Planet Halevy.

        Itshak Gordin Halevy (travelling deep undercover now as Itshak Gordine) and this article and Hass’s article taken together illustrate why Israel, which has all the power as things stand, cannot be trusted to solve the problem of Israel-Palestine by itself. Outside force will be necessary. It is on just such viciously officious, mindlessly supportive, contentedly clucking, passively-racist-nationalist-supremacism-basking Germans that the National Socialists depended.

        Reply to Comment
    3. vivarto

      Hahahahaha it is so funny that EU is these followers of Muhammad on the Jewish state, while they are themselves being rapidly colonized by the same.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Vivarto, where did you hear this, on the Hebrew language edition of Putin’s Russian Disinformatsiya channel?

        Russel Lang–above–what you write sounds like moldy hasbara out of a 30 year old can from the back shelves of Gilad Erdan’s Ministries (“Public Security,” “Strategic Affairs” and “Information.”

        Reply to Comment