Foreign Policy Blogs

EU-Israeli Impasse Continues

Noting the “ongoing deterioration of the situation on the ground” as Israel resumes settlement expansion, a group of former EU leaders last Friday called on the EU to take concrete action, with “consequences,” to force Israel back to the negotiating table. Among their demands: laying out a final plan, with a clear time frame, to end hostilities; reaffirming the EU’s position that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 boundaries, and refusing to warm ties with the country until settlements are frozen.

One might ask, how much leverage does the EU really have over Israel at this point? The letter discusses banning the sale of products produced in the Occupied Territories. That’s something, but it’s not much. [Read the full letter in PDF here.]

We do know that Israel now badly wants better relations with Europe. But only on its terms. Two weeks ago, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman announced an effort to recruit 1,000 citizens from 10 European countries to serve as advocates for Israel and gain wider EU sympathy for its policies. These individuals will be tasked with promoting Israel at public meetings and writing articles or letters in support of its policies to the press. The countries targeted are not identified, but the Guardian reports that Israel will also launch a more conventional PR campaign in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

So the PR project is designed to counter precisely the harder stance advocated for by the EU dignitaries. Given the recent failure of the US to advance peace talks despite successfully exacting a short-term settlement freeze, neither Israel’s diplomatic push nor any EU effort is likely to lead very far.