EJJP lobbies Commission President Barroso: do not offer Israel more economic benefits

April 11, 2005

Dear President Barroso

European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) welcomes the mission of Mr Leffler to Israel later this month. But we are gravely concerned that the EU will offer Israel economic benefits in exchange for minor humanitarian gestures.

Our concerns are twofold:

  • humanitarian “gestures” cannot disguise what are in fact illegal restrictions on fundamental human rights
  • judging by recent example, there is no guarantee that Israel will act in accordance with agreements it makes

Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement states that the relationship between the EU and Israel shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guide their internal and international policy as an essential element of the Agreement. Israel has been and remains in violation of this and we believe the agreement should be suspended until Israel shows respect for its terms. Instead, we are alarmed to read reports that the EU, under the new European Neighbourhood Policy Israel is currently negotiating increased economic benefits to Israel in return for what look like minor removal of restrictions on Palestinians – which should not exist in the first place.

Furthermore, as a recent report from B’tselem confirms, Israel has not lifted the restrictions on movement that it agreed would be necessary when Ariel Sharon met Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el Sheikh in January 2005. With Israel controlling borders and airspace, they warn that Palestinians from the West Bank find it easier to visit relatives in prison than to get to Gaza.

Clearly gentle words of encouragement are not enough.

If the mission of Mr Leffler is to be substantive rather than cosmetic, it must demand more from the Israeli state than the opening of a few roadblocks.

Restrictions are placed on Palestinians collectively and according to arbitrary criteria. The separation barrier has not been removed, as demanded according to international law, but is currently being extended around Jerusalem. Land continues to be expropriated. Settlements continue to expand, illegally – and with the knowledge of the Israeli State.  The Sasson Report has revealed that Israeli state bodies have been secretly diverting millions of dollars to build illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It identified 105 illegal outposts – all supplied by Israeli agencies with electricity and water.

Nowhere are Palestinian rights – and future hopes for a nation state – more clearly violated than in the recent Israeli approval for building 3,500 new houses along route E-1 which links Jerusalem to the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, deep in the West Bank. If completed will drive a wedge through the West Bank, effectively dividing it in two and making a coherent, viable, contiguous Palestinian state well nigh impossible. There are plans to demolish 20,000 Palestinian homes around Jerusalem. There are almost daily reports of attacks by settlers on Palestinian workers and farmers. The continued construction of the Wall/separation fence – condemned by the ICJ – looms large over West Bank life.

We call on the EU to use its economic clout wisely. If Israel seeks economic co-operation with the EU, then it must agree first to serious and significant steps towards peace and improving the lot of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Such steps would include dismantling all internal checkpoints within the West Bank, releasing a substantial number of political prisoners, freezing all new building work in the settlements and East Jerusalem, ending all threatened Palestinian house demolitions and suspending all work on the Wall as a prelude to its dismantlement where it is built beyond the green line.

These demands are entirely in accordance the principles and ethos of the European Union. Nothing less should be acceptable to the EU. We in EJJP await your response with much interest.

Yours sincerely

Dror Feiler

Chair, EJJP

PS: We have also sent this open letter to the following persons:

Benita Ferrero Waldner (Commissioner for External Affairs)

Christian Leffler (Director General, South Mediterranean & Middle East)

Joao Vale de Almeida (Head of Cabinet & external affairs)

Fernando Andressen Guimares (Cabinet member for European Neighbourhood Policy)

Ines Servalho Correia (Cabinet member NGOs & Civil society organisations)