February 28, 2010
Ms. Catherine Ashton,
High representative for Foreign Affairs
and Security Policy of the European Union,
200 Rue de la Loi
Amsterdam, February 30th 2010,
Dear Ms. Ashton,
On behalf of “European Jews for a Just Peace” (EJJP) I send you this letter to congratulate you on your appointment as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union in December 2009. We sincerely wish you all the success in your new position, which will play such a central role in the EU’s efforts to achieve global peace and prosperity and respect for human rights.
EJJP is an organization of eleven Jewish European peace groups working in ten European countries against the occupation of Palestine and for a peaceful and durable solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its principles are stated in the annex to this letter. A list of its members is also included as well as the EJJP resolution of June 2007.
The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to weigh very negatively on relations between so many countries and cultures. Palestinians live under harsh military occupation, on only 22 % of the land which was originally theirs. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said this is the most urgent problem for the world to solve and that, if it remains unresolved, no other issues – from the war on terror to nuclear disarmament – will ever be resolved. About the West’s responsibility he says: “(It) feels a deep, deep shame for what it did – or didn’t do – during the Holocaust…(and)…ought to feel that shame, but …the penalty…has been paid not by the West, but by the Palestinians.”
EJJP fully endorses the words of Archbishop Tutu. Successive Israeli governments have shown a distinct unwillingness to take necessary steps to achieve a just and lasting peace, leaving it till they leave office to make valedictory confessionals. After many years of US neglect of the conflict, President Obama earlier this year has been courageous to make clear and explicit calls on Israel to change its ways. Regrettably, in our opinion, his call was not adequately supported by the EU. EJJP therefore asks the European Commission and the EU to step up their efforts to play a more active role in contributing to an effective equitable settlement of the conflict.
For too long, EU policy has been “declarational”: while official statements made the right demands, the EU did not follow up with concrete measures in cases of Israeli non-compliance. Unfortunately flagrant cases of non-compliance abound.
Agreements signed by the EU such as its Association Agreement with Israel have to be applied fully, not partially. As long as this situation prevails, the EU will be unable to regain its credibility in this arena, still less, as intended by the revised political structure of the EU, to be a serious influence.
As first concrete steps we ask that Israel, without asking counter-concessions from the Palestinians, freeze all construction in all colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lift immediately the cruel siege on Gaza, lift the hundreds of check-points inside occupied Palestine and halts the construction of the separation-wall on Palestine territory.
This is a demand common to the EU, the UN and the US. In order to achieve this, it probably will be necessary for the Commission and the EU to exert concrete pressure on Israel. Such pressure is required even more in instances where the EU itself, by acquiescing to certain Israeli policies, violates Community law (e.g. participation of settlement-based entities in EU programs; import into the EU of settlement products; failure or Community/EU agencies to distinguish between lawful/unlawful activities of Israeli governmental entities; loans from the EIB to enterprises in settlements)
As long as the Israeli government does not take the requested steps, there can be no question of expanding and/or deepening of relations between the EU and Israel in any form. We note with concern that despite reservations over political upgrading, technical cooperation with Israel continues apace, as demonstrated by the recent agreement on agricultural products and the agreement on conformity assessment. In this context we trust that the creation of the post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will also result in a more effective coordination of the activities of the more technical Commission Directorates-General, so as to prevent any unwarranted expansion of technical cooperation in the future.
EJJP welcomed the considerable efforts undertaken by the Swedish Presidency to move EU policy towards Israel in the right direction. Compared with previous Council conclusions, those of the Foreign Affairs Council of 8 December last are clearly a step forward. We have also noted with satisfaction your statement in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 December. We hope that these declarations do indeed herald a more credible and more effective chapter in EU-Israel relations.
We are always at your disposal to discuss these and other proposals provide more information if you felt it would be constructive.
On behalf of EJJP
Chairman of the Executive of EJJP