Rhein on Energy and Climate

By making use of its veto power the USA has rejected, February 18th, a draft Resolution introduced by the group of Arab countries condemning and declaring illegal all Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. All the other 14 members of the Security Council have supported the Resolution.

This is a serious incident, in particular in the present circumstances in the region.

The USA has not only snubbed the Palestinian leadership that finds itself in an increasingly tense situation in view of the absence of any constructive opening by Israel on settlements and peace talks. The Palestinians have lost the last bit of trust in US policy that they still may have had, especially after the USA has put them under pressure to withdraw the draft.

By taking so openly sides with Israel it has also estranged its relations with Arab leaders, especially in the Gulf, who are as keen as ever to get the Israeli-Palestinian issue out of their way.

It has equally shocked its European partners in the Security Council – France, UK, Germany and Portugal – who have all voted in favour of the Resolution.

Last not least, it dealt a mortal blow to the “Quartet” (USA, EU, Russia, UN) which has more and more turned into “fig leaf” trying to make the world believe that the peace process is still going on.

But the incident has also its positive sides.

  • Nobody in the region will still trust US assurances that it wants peace. Peace is not possible without Israel withdrawing from the bulk of the settlements.
  • The front lines have now become crystal-clear: USA stands by Israel, EU stands by the Palestinians and Arabs.
  • Germany has not followed the US line, as it has regularly done in the past.

Where to go from here? The Palestinians have indicated their intention to take the issue to the General Assembly, where the USA does not have veto power. In September the international community is therefore likely to condemn Israel for illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. This would be a grave event that Israel should not take lightly. A UN Resolution might invite all third countries to reduce or even cut their ties with Israel.

Israel would not appreciate a suspension of its Association Agreement with the EU: nor would it like to see its membership in the Union for the Mediterranean suspended, however ineffective this “Club” may have been since its establishment in 2008.

It is time for the EU to re-assess its relations with Israel and see what it can do to get negotiations back on track. Both the EU and Israel should have learned from the Arab Revolution that the level of frustration in the streets of Ramallah can degenerate any moment into another Palestinian intifada.

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