Earlier this month, the European Union decided to put teeth in its earlier policy opposing Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. These settlements are illegal under international law but that doesn’t seem to deter Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The European decision says that no Israeli institution or corporation which has any direct or indirect connection with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights will receive any contract, grant, prize or suchlike from the EU or any member state. To assure compliance, every contract between Israelis and the EU will contain a paragraph stating that the settlements are not part of Israel.
The new EU guidelines are not a total boycott. They do not apply to the EU’s 28 individual member states, but only to the EU Commission. Nevertheless, these guidelines are a serious wake-up call to Israel. The NY Times reported:
The European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner, with nearly $40 billion of imports and exports in 2011. The guidelines cover only projects financed directly out of the bloc’s next long-term budget, which covers 2014 to 2020; officials said that it was impossible to estimate the projects’ value, but noted that it was not a large sum.
“This is not about money,” said Rosa Balfour, a senior analyst at the European Policy Center, based in Brussels. “It’s about politics.”
Uri Ariel, the pro-settlement housing minister, went further, saying the move was racist and “reminiscent of boycotts of the Jews in Europe over 66 years ago.”
Wouldn’t it be something if the U.S. Congress and President Obama had the same –umm– gumption?
Considering the near-panic with which Israeli leaders reacted to the EU’s minimal step, imagine Israel’s reaction to a simple American warning that Israel’s rejection of the universally accepted formula for a two-state peace accord along the pre-1967 lines would no longer allow the U.S. to defend Israeli positions in the UN Security Council and in international courts.
What does the reptilian brain do when it feels it’s backed into a corner?
Answer: It fights. It does not engage in higher-order thinking or self-reflection. (“Maybe our settlement policy is problematic.”) It lashes out.
The reptilian brain yells “WE’LL SHOW YOU!” And that’s exactly what the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has done. EU diplomats are now going to be treated as tourists and their travel will be curtailed to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Will Israel’s response back-fire? Will the state find itself more ostracized in the international community? Will the world see the jailer more clearly? Only time will tell. I hope this tit-for-tat can evolve to the primate brain where reasonable minds can think creatively about how to end the occupation.