September 27, 2012
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats MEPs
We are writing about the forthcoming vote on the ACAA Protocol in Plenary. For several reasons, we believe Parliament should not assent to ACAA at the present time.
Firstly and fundamentally is the political. We know that some MEPs believe that trade and technical issues, such as the ACAA, should be kept separate from political issues, but we believe that is unrealistic. Elmar Brok, Chair of the AFET Committee wrote to Commissioner de Gucht (supported orally by Vital Moreira, Chair of INTA) seeking “legally binding assurances” that the scope of the Israeli regulatory authorities would not cover the Occupied Territories, and further that no goods produced in Israeli settlements would be covered by the protocol. In his oral reply, Commissioner de Gucht said clearly that the ACAA could not discriminate based on origin of products as it only concerns technical and safety certification. That means that he could not give those assurances. He also said that technical and political issues cannot realistically be separated. Following his reply, the INTA Committee passed ACAA to Plenary for a vote by the thinnest of majorities.
The political issues are clear. The current Israeli government’s obdurate refusal to commit to negotiate on the basis of the 4th June ’67 borders and its obvious intention to continue expanding settlements – both within and beyond the big settlements near the Green Line – make it perfectly plain that its true motives are to retain much of the West Bank and its land and water resources, and to keep all or most of Jerusalem. MEPs should also realize that the current government is following the expansionist policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, but more overtly and with much less concern for international opinion.
The continuation of the occupation will lead to ever greater danger of regional conflict. The appearance of tacit complicity by the EU will lead to growing security risks in EU countries, and to the risk of de-stabilising relations with Muslim countries and consequent economic risks. Israel’s own long-term security is also being jeopardised, as is the security of Jews all over the world, who, like it or not, are identified with Israel.
The issues for MEPs are therefore whether they actually want to influence Israel to change course, and likewise whether they want the EU to be seen to be seriously trying to do so. If they do, then they have to apply conditionality to Israel by withholding any further integration into the EU until Israel commits to negotiate in good faith to create a Palestinian state based on the internationally legitimate 4th June 1967 borders (with an agreed land swap for the well understood reasons), to share Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, and to resolve the refugee issue. Conversely, granting more integration will tell Israel that it can continue to have it both ways, i.e. to continue occupying and settling Palestinian land and simultaneously integrate itself into the EU.
Secondly is the question of whether suspension of ACAA will deprive EU consumers of access to Israeli produced medicines at a competitive cost, as some strong supporters of ACAA claim. On the evidence, we believe that is a false claim. For example, the Israeli company, Teva Pharmaceuticals, is the biggest generic producer in the world. It currently has over 14,000 employees across the EU (plus Switzerland and Norway), has offices in 24 EU states, manufactures or researches in eight EU states, and last year sold over 3 billion Euros worth of pharmaceuticals in Europe. In the UK, for example, one out of every six prescriptions is supplied by Teva. Their products are obviously competitively priced and widely available. The cost of separate EU certification, as it is spread over all units of a drug produced, has obviously not been a bar to their entry into the market.
Thirdly is the question of international law. The most basic Israeli violations of international law are of course the long occupation and the settlement project itself. The many other violations are part and parcel of Israeli repression of Palestinian resistance. If the EU continues to integrate Israel, it would inadvertently be supporting the continuation of the vicious cycle of violations of international law and periodic bouts of violence.
Fourthly is the issue of consistency. The Treaty of the European Union refers to the obligation of the Union to “ensure consistency between the areas of its external action” (Article 21 TEU). The EU has firmly condemned Israel’s policies and practices that violate international law, as expressed in Council Conclusions in 2009 and on 14 May 2012. Further measures of integration, such as ACAA, will create a blatant dichotomy between the EU’s words and its actions. Many people, especially in the Muslim world, will perceive this as hypocritically supporting universal human rights, including the right to independence, while in reality supporting Israeli settler colonialism. Memories of Europe’s own colonial past will be revived.
To reiterate, for all these reasons, we urge you to vote against assent to ACAA at the present time.
We have included an addendum to this letter describing two recent decisions, one by the Israel government and one by the Israeli High Court of Justice, which demonstrate Israel’s increasing willingness to ignore international opinion.
Dror Feiler, Chair of EJJP and Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm), Board Member of the EJJP Foundation
Arthur Goodman, Parliamentary and Diplomatic Officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (London)
Max Wieselmann, Board Member of the EJJP Foundation, Director of Een Ander Joods Geluid (Amsterdam)
A similar letter was written to the Presidents of all the political groups
(A) Settlement Outposts
In April 2012, a far-reaching decision was taken by an Israeli government Ministerial Committee which significantly extends settlement expansion in the West Bank. The Committee approved the legalization of three settlement outposts, Sansea, Ruchana and Bruchin. Once planning procedure is approved, they will be fully “legal” under Israeli law.
The significance of these approvals is twofold. Firstly, it is the first time an Israeli government has approved legalizing an outpost. Previously, Israeli governments simply left the outposts in limbo. They were not approved by the government, but nevertheless were provided with infrastructure and services. Since the Oslo II Agreement in 1996, official settlement building, i.e. approved by the