Israel summons EU envoy over ‘blatantly one-sided’ declaration

Union stands behind joint statement with Arab League, which slams Israel but hails ‘Palestine’s commitment to democracy and human rights’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)

Jerusalem has summoned the European Union’s top representative in Israel to the Foreign Ministry to protest a declaration the union issued together with the Arab League, calling it one-sided and biased against Israel.

The head of the Foreign Ministry’s European division, Rafi Schutz, on Monday morning complained to Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen about a proclamation adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers and their Arab colleagues after a meeting between the groups last week in Athens.

“The declaration was so blatantly one-sided, it basically read as if it was dictated by the Arab League,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel. “It hails the Fatah-Hamas union and praises the Palestinians’ ‘commitment to democracy and human rights,’ but doesn’t reflect negatively in any way on the rockets fired from Gaza at our citizens, or anything else the Palestinians do wrong.”

The 10-page declaration does not explicitly mention Hamas, nor does it mention rocket attacks against Israeli civilians or any other form of Palestinian terrorism, merely condemning “all acts of violence against civilians” and calling for “full respect of international humanitarian law.”

On the other hand, the declaration — adopted last Wednesday at a summit headed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby — is not short of harsh criticism for alleged Israeli violations. For instance, the European and Arab foreign ministers expressed concern over the “grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip largely caused by the closure imposed by the Occupying Power,” according to the declaration.

The ministers also “stressed their common position that Israeli settlements, the separation barrier built anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territory, home demolitions and evictions are illegal under international law and constitute obstacles for peace and they endanger the viability of the two-state solution.”

Furthermore, the ministers reaffirmed their concern regarding “unilateral measures” in violation of international law, such as the “settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem.” They called for the release of Palestinian prisoners “in accordance with previous agreements” and demanded an end to Israel’s “excessive use of administrative detention in contravention of international law.”

Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, left, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (photo credit: European Union)
Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, left, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, January 2014 (photo credit: European Union)

The European and Arab ministers also welcomed the establishment of the Palestinian unity government “as an important element for reaching a two-state solution,” calling on Israel to cooperate with the new government.

“The Ministers welcomed Palestine’s commitment to democracy and human rights as expressed by its accession to relevant international treaties and conventions,” the statement read. In April, the Palestinian Authority applied to 15 international treaties and conventions in a move that Israel said contributed to the breakdown of peace talks a few weeks later.

Speaking to The Times of Israel before Lars Faaborg-Andersen’s meeting at the Foreign Ministry Monday, a senior EU official defended the declaration as balanced overall, saying that it condemns all acts of violence and thus indirectly criticizes Hamas. The official also stressed that the declaration hails the principles of the Middle East Quartet — recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to previous agreements — which is significant in a declaration co-signed by the Arab League.

“Some Arab countries have supported Hamas, so for them to accept the Quartet principles is considerable,” the senior official said.

Israel should appreciate that the EU was able to “draw the Arabs toward our position, as opposed to the other way around,” the official added, referring not only to the parts of the declaration dealing with the peace process but those focused on other issues in the region, such as the violence in Syria.

Last week’s joint declaration was “very similar” to the one published after the last EU-Arab League summit, which took place in 2012 in Cairo, and it faithfully represents the EU’s positions on the Middle East peace process and other issues, the official added. The text has been updated regarding the new Palestinian unity government but merely reiterates positions the EU has expressed several times in recent weeks, the official said. “We can stand fully behind this declaration.”

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