CMEP Bulletin: Stirrings of 2016
The random violence between Palestinians and Israelis has continued at a steady level since October, with over 150 Palestinians and 25 Israelis killed over 120 days or so. Most would agree the violence is fed by Palestinian despair and lack of hope in an any process that will lead to an end of the occupation in any foreseeable future, paralleled by Israeli fear and distrust of Palestinians.
However some developments in recent weeks suggest that the international community, including the Obama administration, have not given up on the two state solution and are willing to make limited public gestures to express disapproval of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands it conquered in I967.
Perhaps the most far-reaching statement was by Ban Ki-Mon who told the UN Security Council, “As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation.” Prime Minister Netanyahu was furious, saying Ban’s statement supported terror and was yet more proof of UN prejudice against Israel.
The Obama Administration is in its last year in office. The US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, told a conference in January the US was “puzzled” by the contradiction between the Israeli government’s professed support for the two state solution and its policy of encouraging the expansion of settlements. He also expressed concern about separate laws for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and the arbitrary demolition of Palestinian homes.
No doubt partly in reaction to attempts by the US Congress to recognize West Bank settlements as part of Israel, the EU Foreign Ministers issued a statement in January saying that while they oppose any boycott of Israel, any EU activity must make an explicit distinction between Israel and Israeli settlements. The following week the US took the occasion to highlight standing US regulations that require different labeling of goods imported from Israel and goods coming from the West Bank, East Jerusalem Gaza or Golan.
Last week France revived its idea of an international conference on Israel-Palestine with the objective of reaching an agreement on a framework and timeline for a two state solution. The Palestinian Authority has strongly endorsed, and Israel opposes, the idea of an international conference.
The US and EU clearly intend to make a sharp distinction between their support for Israel’s legitimacy and security and their opposition to boycotts of Israel on the one hand and their opposition to Israel’s occupation and expansionism into the West Bank. To emphasize this distinction, the week after the statements by Ambassador Shapiro, President Obama attended a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, emphasizing US concern about growing anti-Semitism and its deep concern for Israel’s welfare and security.
These developments represent signals that the US and the EU, notwithstanding other pressing concerns in the region, do not intend to give up on their support for a contiguous, viable Palestinian state. The year has just begun.
Executive Director of CMEP