Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Europe's pretext for procrastination

Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, is in the Middle East this week, and Emanuele Ottolenghi says that it's time for Ashton to stop letting the Israeli - 'Palestinian' dispute drive all of Europe's other interests in the region.
By prioritizing the Palestinian-Israeli dispute over other regional goals, the EU is allowing its interests to be at the mercy of the Palestinians' intramural power contests and Israeli's coalition politics, not to mention Arab tyrants and the greater radical Islam movement.

With tunnel-vision for a Palestinian-Israeli solution, Europe is bowing to supposedly moderate Arab regimes that are recalcitrant about promoting democracy, strengthening civil society, fighting corruption, and improving governance. As they are no doubt telling Ms. Ashton during her first visit to the region, they are prepared to help in the quest for a negotiated Palestinian-Israel solution, but in exchange, Europe must forgo its demands for change inside their own societies. Perhaps that's why, in Ms. Ashton's speech in Cairo on Monday, she contented herself with pressing Hosni Mubarak's repressive autocracy to join efforts to "move from conflict management to conflict resolution" between Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, she made no mention of the woes suffered by more than 80 million Egyptians, not once uttering the words "rights," "governance," or "democracy."

And so it goes: Authoritarian Arab regimes whose policies run contrary to European interests and values get off the hook, while Israel—a democracy and Europe's best economic partner in the area—stays in the doghouse.

Europe can't afford to delay addressing other pressing regional problems because of a stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement. Good governance and respect for human rights in the Maghreb or the Levant are not impeded by the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Indeed, respectable leadership at home is something the EU should require of its Arab interlocutors in exchange for economic aid, direct investment, and political partnerships. It is risible to use the absence of Palestinian statehood as a pretext to disregard most Arab countries' need for internal reforms, and to ignore their unfulfilled commitments with the EU Association Agreements.

Similarly, denying Israel an upgrade in relations makes little sense. Europe and Israel share values and interests: Israel is a representative democracy, it is an open society, it has a vibrant free press, and it is a robust economy with much to offer Europe thanks to its dynamic, innovative, high-tech-oriented business environment. Israel is an island of stability in a sea of confusion, and an oasis of freedom in the authoritarian desert the Middle East continues to be. Seeking a closer political and economic relationship with Israel thus makes perfect sense and should not be made hostage to a peace process that for almost 10 years now has shown few signs of progress anyway.
All true. But don't hold your breath waiting for Europe to suddenly stop placing the Israeli - 'Palestinian' dispute at the top of the list. For many European countries (e.g. Sweden) this isn't about values or interests: It's about anti-Semitism or about fear of how their Muslim populations would react if Europe normalized relations with the hated Jews.

Ashton herself is enough of an Israel hater that she's not going to be the one to push for change.

Read the whole thing.


At 11:41 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel is not going to be lectured about peace from the largest graveyard of Jewry in the world.


Post a Comment

<< Home