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EU Labelling And The Arab Peace Plan – OpEd

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If there’s one thing you cannot fault the European Union on, it’s consistency. For the last forty years the EU and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), have maintained that the territory occupied by the Arab armies on July 20, 1949 – the day the armistice between them and Israel was signed – are the borders of a putative sovereign state of Palestine.

Of course, Israel was not fighting Palestinians in 1949. There was no such Arab entity. It was facing the armies of Egypt and Jordan, and it was with those sovereign nations that Israel signed the armistice. Article II of the Armistice with Jordan explicitly specifies that the cease-fire agreement had been “dictated exclusively by military considerations,” and did not “prejudice the rights, claims and positions of the parties”. The EU and its predecessors, however, seem blind to the fact that the ceasefire lines were not to be regarded as permanent borders.

What happened after 1949? On April 24, 1950 King Abdullah of Jordan annexed the West Bank together with east Jerusalem, areas the Jordanian army had overrun and occupied during their attack on the new-born state of Israel, and formally incorporated them into the Hashemite Kingdom. In June 1967 Jordan still held this territory – illegally, according to most of world opinion – when it joined with Egypt and Syria in planning a three-pronged attack on Israel.

In the Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967 Israel chased the Jordanian army out of the west bank of the Jordan and Jerusalem, pushed the Egyptian army out of Gaza and pursued it across the Sinai peninsula, and captured the Golan Heights from Syrian forces.

Dr Dore Gold, the renowned expert on Middle East affairs, has pointed out that after the Six-Day War the architects of UN Security Council Resolution 242 insisted that the old armistice line had to be replaced with a new border. “Which is why,” Dr Gold writes, “Resolution 242 did not call for a full withdrawal from all the territories that Israel captured in the Six Day War; the 1949 armistice lines were no longer to be a reference point for a future peace process.”

In championing Palestinian sovereignty the EU has consistently ignored the fact that the 1949 ceasefire lines were not intended to mark the internationally recognized borders of Israel. The West Bank did not, according to international law, belong to Jordan, or indeed to any sovereign state. This became even more obvious in 1988, when Jordan renounced its annexation. Subsequent events, however, gave rise to a general consensus that if or when the Israel-Palestinian conflict is resolved by way of a two-state solution, the majority of the area will form part of a sovereign Palestine.

In 1999, at a meeting held in Berlin, the EU announced: ”The European Union declares its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State in due course.” This the European parliament duly did, although only in principle, on December 17, 2014.

The corollary emerged on November 12, 2015. In a “Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967”, the European Commission stated that the EU does not consider the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to be part of sovereign Israel. So the notice advises that all products originating from these areas and being sold in the EU should be labelled to indicate they are not from Israel proper.

“For products from Palestine that do not originate from settlements,” states the notice, “an indication … could be ‘product from the West Bank (Palestinian product)’ ‘product from Gaza’ or ‘product from Palestine’.

The EU seems blissfully unaware of the anomaly it is promulgating. Bending over backwards to ensure that certain goods are labelled as not emanating from the Israel that the EU recognizes, it recommends they are labelled as coming from a state of Palestine that does not exist.

What is this “Palestine” ? In effect the EU has determined that the territory occupied by Jordanian forces on July 20, 1949, forms part of a so-far non-existent state of Palestine, together with Gaza, where the PA’s writ does not run, and where the de facto rulers, Hamas, are designated a terrorist organisation by the EU.

“A lasting solution,” runs the EU’s official policy statement, “must be achieved on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, agreements previously reached by the parties and of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

The Arab Peace Initiative was promulgated in March 2002 by the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, when he was still Crown Prince. Basically, he called for peace with Israel in return for Israel withdrawing from all territories captured in the 1967 war. There was a significant condition: a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee crisis based on UN Resolution 194 (a sort of “right of return” or, for those who do not want to go back, agreed compensation). The plan was discussed for a week and adopted on the 28th of March 2002. The Arab League has since readopted the Initiative on several occasions.

The quid pro quo for Israel’s agreement to the plan would be that all 22 Arab States would consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement and establish normal relations with Israel.

Early in President Obama’s first term the plan was incorporated into US foreign policy and, just prior to the start of the 2014 peace negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry achieved something of a triumph in discussions with Arab League delegates. “The Arab League delegation affirmed…the two-state solution,” he announced, “on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line* [*note “line” not “border”], with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of the land.”

On 12 November 2015 Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal called for the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative. In a pre-recorded message to the Israel Conference for Peace in Tel-Aviv, he urged Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to declare that he was “ willing to negotiate on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative,” adding that he believed the plan could jump-start a new peace process. “What better time … for Israel to say, ‘Let us have peace with our neighbors’ and come from a position of strength to the table.”

This time, to ensure that Palestinian hardliners do not sabotage delicate negotiations, and perhaps to exert some pressure on the PA delegation, the table should include Arab League representatives. Something of the sort was actually suggested by Netanyahu, in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2014.

“A broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said. To achieve that peace, he asserted, not only Jerusalem and Ramallah need be involved, but also Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere. In short, Israel’s prime minister backs the idea of a broadly-based peace conference.

As for the EU, for once he could be assured of its support.

Neville Teller

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

One thought on “EU Labelling And The Arab Peace Plan – OpEd

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    November 29, 2015 at 10:56 am
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    Thanks Neville for analysing correctly the historic record… but I find it strange to find out that an intellectual like you are, deeply involved in the subject matter, could really believe that Netanyahu actually “backs the idea of a broadly-based peace conference”…(what does it mean??) This is a mockery of human intelligence…. especially European.

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