During today’s EU-Israel Association Council, high-ranking EU officials are meeting with the Israeli government in order to discuss EU-Israel relations, including a potential upgrade of their mutual relations in the framework of the European Neighbourhood
Policy (ENP). During the previous Association Council Meeting in June last year, the EU decided to favour the upgrade, reconfirming a December 2008 decision to endorse guidelines for the political dimension of the upgrade.
Formally, an upgrade would be based on a new Action Plan which would lay the groundwork for increased Israeli participation in EU agencies and community programmes (such as those related to education, environment, research and energy), as well as enhance the access of Israeli goods to the European market and strengthen the political dialogue between the two parties. In June 2008, when the EU first decided in favour of the upgrade, it linked the upgrade process to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the implementation of the two-state solution and referred inter alia to Israel’s international human rights and humanitarian law obligations. However, Israel has not complied with these terms.
Since the June 2008 upgrade decision was taken, the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has deteriorated significantly. In December 2008, Israel launched a large-scale military offensive, “Operation Cast Lead,” against the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, who have been subjected to Israel’s policy of collective punishment and siege since Hamas’ violent seizure of power in June 2007. The Israeli offensive resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians (mostly civilians, including women and children), the injury of over 5,000 and an unprecedented level of destruction of civilian infrastructure. Additionally, the persisting siege is impeding reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, Israel’s illegal policies of land confiscation, house demolition, movement restrictions and settlement construction continue unabated. Meanwhile, the newly formed Israeli government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly refuses to genuinely commit to the peace process, including a two-state solution.
While the EU has to date refrained from adopting a new Action Plan, it has equally refrained from publically confirming the freezing of the upgrade. Despite an official lack of progress in this process, incremental steps, tantamount to an upgrade in stealth, are being implemented. For example, after “Operation Cast Lead”, the EU engaged in cooperation talks with Israel in the field of aviation and with regard to Israel’s participation in Europol. The EU’s “business as usual” approach reflects its acquiescence to the blatant violations of international law committed by Israel, the Occupying Power, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Al-Haq therefore calls upon the EU to condition its upgrade process with Israel upon Israel’s compliance with its international human rights and humanitarian law obligations in the OPT. To this end, Al-Haq requests the EU to:
Publically state that the upgrade process is on hold pending a meaningful improvement in Israel’s respect for its international legal obligations in the OPT;
Demand from Israel the instant lifting of its siege of the Gaza Strip, including opening all border crossings to allow the movement of goods and people to and from the area;
Pressure Israel to immediately cease its unlawful construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including natural growth; and
Request Israel to stop its policy of house demolitions, without delay.
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