Peace efforts can be advanced, even if parties not currently interested — EU envoy

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Sven Koopmans (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal / Wikipedia)
Sven Koopmans (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal / Wikipedia)

Through the Preparatory Peace Conference, Brussels aims to build off the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — which offered Israel full normalization with its Arab neighbors if it agreed to a two-state solution on the pre-1967 lines — and the Abraham Accords normalization deals — which saw the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

The EU’s Middle East peace envoy Sven Koopmans tells The Times of Israel in an interview that the conference would also be an extension of the “Peace Day Effort” that the EU co-hosted with Saudi Arabia and the Arab League on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

“That doesn’t on its own give you the Israeli and Palestinian peace agreement, but it gets us a lot closer by showing what regional peace can look like in practice,” Koopmans says.

The EU official acknowledges that a ceasefire in Gaza and a release of the hostages being held by Hamas is all but necessary for the conference to take place, but he insists that the current Israeli government’s opposition to a two-state solution need not be the final word on the matter.

Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

“It’s a very normal — albeit old-fashioned — approach to say peace isn’t possible because there is no partner, and then to do nothing,” Koopmans says.

“Maybe Mr. Netanyahu does not want it and surely Hamas doesn’t want it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world does not want it or that the rest of the world cannot do anything to bring it about,” he asserts.

“Of course, we cannot ultimately have peace without Israeli and Palestinian leaders signing up for it, but we can effectively prepare the ground,” Koopmans continues, noting that Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and the Gaza war that followed have complicated peace efforts.

But he argues that now is the time to pursue such efforts with global attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a peak.

The European diplomat acknowledges that any plan would not be immediately implementable, but he rejects multi-year efforts aimed at achieving a resolution to the conflict.

“The EU is not interested — I am not mandated to be interested — in a roadmap that leads us to five years down the line, when we know that this roadmap is never going to be completed,” Koopmans says.

Most Popular