Israel: Who cares what Europe says?

Thursday, December 22, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Israel's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday lashed out at European powers for their harsh criticism of the Jewish state at the UN Security Council a day earlier. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that the European Union was in danger of making itself irrelevant as far as the peace process is concerned.

If European powers continue to focus exaggerated attention on Israel, a law-abiding and democratic nation, instead of real flash points like Syria and Egypt, "they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant," read the Foreign Ministry statement.

Israel's anger was sparked by a statement released by the four European members of the Security Council - France, Britain, Germany and Portugal - that condemned Jewish building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem and took a very unbalanced view of what is needed to get the peace process back on track.

The Europeans said that recent Israeli plans to build additional apartments in existing Jewish "settlements" on in Jewish neighborhoods on the eastern side of Jerusalem "send a devastating message" and must be reversed.

"All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately," insisted France, Britain, Germany and Portugal.

Contradicting the traditional position that all peace negotiations should take place between Israel and the Palestinians, the Europeans demanded that both sides instead present proposals to the Middle East Quartet comprised of the European Union, United States, UN and Russia. The Quartet would then mediate those proposals and provide a plan for peace.

Knowing that the international powers have generally sided with Arab demands and adopted the Arab narrative, the Palestinians are pleased with the new direction taken by the Europeans, and have already submitted a "peace" proposal to the Quartet. Israel refuses to do so since the peace process has always been based on the idea of direct bilateral negotiations, and so is being made out as the primary obstacle to peace.

Israel's Foreign Ministry noted that instead of advancing the cause of peace, the Europeans were only "adding obstacles on the path toward renewed negotiations."

The Americans took Israel's side in that debate.

Israel and the Palestinians must "get back to the table and settle these issues together, and that's the way we are going to have a lasting, stable peace," said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "Shouting from the rooftops of the Security Council is not going to change the situation on the ground."

The European statement issued from the Security Council also took Israel to task for recent acts of vandalism against Arabs and Muslims by a small group of right-wing religious youth. The so-called "price tag" attacks are meant to demonstrate to the Israeli government that it cannot surrender to international demands without creating a problem with its own people.

The Europeans appeared to place a lot of importance on those attacks, despite the fact they have resulted in no casualties. They demanded that Israel "bring the perpetrators to justice and put an end to impunity," calling the attacks "deliberately provocative actions."

The statement was enormously hypocritical.

For decades Palestinians groups, many of them actually associated with and backed by the Palestinian leadership, have attacked and killed Israeli Jews. Very rarely, if ever, has the UN Security Council or the European Union issued such a strong and direct condemnation of such attacks. Instead, the international community usually responds to Palestinian terror attacks by condemning violence in general, and calling on both sides to "show restraint."

The Europeans generally give the Palestinian Authority itself a pass when it comes to Palestinian violence, accepting the official Palestinian position that it cannot stop all acts of aggression, which at any rate are legitimate responses to ongoing "Israeli occupation."

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