Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Bargouthi joined a coalition of rights groups on Thursday expressing outrage at the European Union’s expansion of cooperation with Israel.
At the Association Council’s meeting between the EU and Israel in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU agreed to develop its cooperation with Israel offering it 60 new activities in 15 fields, and said it would seek to identify areas for future cooperation.
Bargouthi said the upgrading of bilateral ties was granted in contradiction to the EU’s political position criticizing Israel’s illegal settlement expansion, occupation and violations of international human rights laws.
Europe’s decision will encourage Israel to continue its aggression toward Palestinians and breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Palestinian National Initiative leader said in a statement.
“This emphasizes the need for a popular and parliamentary movement to pressure European governments to change their policies, as well as to impose a boycott policy on Israel similar to [the boycott of] the apartheid regime in South Africa,” he said.
A coalition of 11 prominent Palestinian rights groups also expressed outrage at the EU’s decision on Thursday.
“As Palestinian human rights organizations, we are deeply disappointed with the EU’s decision to sideline human rights and humanitarian law when it suits the EU and Israel, and thus oppose the EU’s decision to effectively upgrade its relations with Israel,” the Palestinian Council of Human Rights said in a statement.
Noting the EU’s recent statements expressing concern that Israeli policies threatened the two-state solution, the rights groups said they waited for Europe’s words to turn into action.
The EU’s meeting with Israel on Tuesday was, however, “a step backwards.”
“Aggravatingly, the Association Council statement comes at a time when Israel is relentless in expanding its illegal settlement enterprise; maintains the continued closure of the Gaza Strip which amounts to collective punishment; continues to revoke residency permits of Palestinians; displaces the Palestinian people, especially those residing in Area C; discriminatorily allocates natural resources, such as land and water; as well as continuing the construction of the Annexation Wall,” the rights groups said.
The EU is failing to adhere to its self-commitment to international law and must “make a link between its actions and its verbal and written condemnations,” they added.
“Only in the instance that the EU does not allow for Israel to enjoy impunity will Israel be persuaded to comply with all its international legal obligations, including those owed towards the occupied Palestinian people.”