European Jewish Congress Head Says E.U. Is Harming Middle East Peace Process

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The European Jewish Congress (EJC) has urged the European Union to withdraw new guidelines limiting the funding of EU-sponsored projects in the West Bank. In an advertisement published by the ‘Financial Times’ EJC President Moshe Kantor said the EU was trying to preempt the results of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and said the guidelines were harmful to the talks.

Responding to a letter sent yesterday by former European leaders to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton calling on the EU not to delay or soften the guidelines, Kantor said that the letter “is a danger to peace as it hands one side a political victory without having to compromise and deepens the Palestinian feeling that they can gain more outside of negotiations than in them.”

Kantor wrote that the guidelines, which block EU funding of Israeli institutions operating in the West Bank beyond the 1949 Armistice Line were discriminatory, and would ultimately hurt Europeans, Israelis, Palestinians, and the prospects for peace. “From the well over one hundred territorial disputes in the world, the European Union has mandated the creation of a clause in every agreement denying European funding to, and cooperation with, institutions from only one nation involved in a territorial dispute: Israel,” Kantor pointed out, adding: “It has not placed similar criteria on Turkey, Morocco, China, or any other nation involved in a territorial dispute.”

“What makes the situation far worse is that the European Union is abrogating agreements that it signed and witnessed,” Kantor continued “The Oslo Accords, the basis for the peace negotiations, specifically stipulate that the current status of the territories, and its residents, will not be changed or harmed ahead of final status negotiations, to which the parties have recently returned.” The territories, captured during a defensive war, from Jordan, itself an occupier, were never an independent sovereign entity, the EJC president pointed out. “The significance and the timing of these new guidelines, on the eve of the return to negotiations, harms the trust between the parties and a potentially successful outcome,” Kantor added.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in daily contact with the parties in order to oversee the talks to a positive conclusion has himself expressed severe reservations about the guidelines to EU leaders and attended the recent summit of EU foreign ministers in Vilnius to make these comments personally.

Kantor said that the desire for the EU to score political points seemed to outweigh the direct economic considerations of European citizens as well as undermining the financial building blocks so necessary for sustainable peace.

The EJC also pointed out the potentially catastrophic economic effects of the guidelines on the daily lives of Palestinian families where 22,500 breadwinners are employed in Israeli institutions and businesses over the Green Line. These Palestinians receive almost double the pay working in these enterprises and institutions that they receive working in the Palestinian Authority.

Furthermore, Europeans themselves stood to lose if the guidelines remained in place. “Israel has been recognized by the European Union as being at the forefront of global innovation and research and development. Israel’s medical technology has saved countless European lives, assisted our technological growth, increased our crop production and ensured alternative energy sources. It is time to place the good of Europe and Europeans, Israelis and Palestinians, and the potential for peace in the Middle East above politics,” Kantor wrote in the ‘Financial Times’. “As citizens of Europe, we call on European leaders to stand by their written commitments, demonstrate responsibility and work in the interests of European, regional and global interest,” he ended his letter.