Thursday, December 16, 2010

Israel Should Ban All 26 Former EU Leaders

Robin Shepherd – December 11th

European extremism against Israel reached a new low this week with a letter from 26 former top officials to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton calling for sanctions against Israel and the abandonment of a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict in favour of a UN-imposed solution if Israel does not stop settlement building by April 2011. Ashton is signalling that there will be no change to current policy for the moment, but the tide in Europe is clearly now turning and the risk is that change along such lines is only a matter of time.

Former EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana, best known on matters Jewish for suppressing a 2003 (EUMC) report outlining the growing problem of Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe, was among the signatories of the letter which was sponsored by former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and former EU commissioner from Britain Chris Patten. Other notable signatories include Italy’s Romano Prodi and Giuliano Amato, Richard von Weizsaecker and Helmut Schmidt of Germany, Ireland’s Mary Robinson, Spain’s Felipe Gonzalez and Norway’s Thorvald Stoltenberg.

So, what to say about this? Mainly, Israel should stop pussy-footing around — ban each and every one of these people from entering the state of Israel or having any contact with Israeli embassy staff in their countries or anyone else’s. This is important for a number of reasons:

First, the 26 have launched an all out assault on Israel and Israel needs to respond. What European leaders fear more than anything is that they will be made irrelevant. By making this bunch persona non grata and isolating them, Israel will be sending a message that should the EU change tack along the lines the 26 are recommending, it will become as irrelevant to peace making in the Middle East as they are.

Second, Israel needs to make a very public statement against what amounts to a piece of unbridled bigotry. Let us restate the facts: it is the Palestinian side that refuses to negotiate, not Israel. It is the Palestinian side that has rejected two-state peace agreements since 1947 while Israel has accepted them. It is the Arab and Muslim states that refuse to recognise Israel, and not the other way around. The 26 signatories have thrown basic historical realities out of the window in order to sustain and support a bigoted anti-Israeli narrative.

Third, Europe has a long and sordid history of hostility to the Jews and this letter shows that the lessons simply haven’t been learned. The fact that two prominent Germans — former President Richard von Weizsaecker and former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt — are among the signatories is shameful. They should become the first two German leaders since the Second World War to be banned from Israel for hostility to the Jewish people.

Fourth, doing nothing will simply allow the problem to fester and grow. These people have the wind in their sails. Israel needs to take it out of them.

Of course, the State of Israel can and must choose its own policies. But the boycott movement is gathering strength and now has some very prominent allies. Surely a tougher line from Jerusalem is now in order.

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