Even in its wildest dream Israel never expected such a move from Europe. Therefore, a stunned Israel reacted proportionately to its bewilderment. From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down to officials and even media all described the EU decision as “earthquake”, a “brutality”, “a miserable directive” and a move that will “undermine the peace process”. Israeli media called Europe’s decision a move which will lead Israel towards a “crisis.” European Union decided not to bankroll settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The EU decision is the first sanction imposed on Israel and this has hit Israel hard. The new funding guidelines have precisely expressed EU’s refusal to finance and support Israeli establishments in territories occupied in 1967 and in Golan Heights. Europe hasn’t stopped funding education, research and other projects in Israel but has insisted that Israel must give specific undertaking that European money will never ever be used to finance settlements.
EU explicitly made it clear that it views settlements as illegal — the thing which it has long been saying and Israel persistently ignoring. For decades Europe has been asking Tel Aviv to freeze settlements but watched its advice being flouted with brazen impunity. Today, there are at least 520,000 settlers in West Bank, and East Jerusalem jeopardising peace and killing every possibility of two-state solution.
The Zionists this year have announced to bring in E1 past of Jerusalem under fresh settlement as a punishment for the Palestinians for upgrading their UN membership. Over sixty per cent of Area C in East Jerusalem has already been usurped by the Zionists and to the Palestinians still living in the remaining forty per cent eviction notices have been served.
Frustrations in Europe have been mounting; need to teach the errant a lesson was increasingly becoming necessary. Europe, thus, finally decided to tell the delinquents in Tel Aviv that they cannot get away with their crime and annexation for long. Civilised world would not tank for ever before blackmailing.
For long Israel had been belittling Europe and its relevance in today’s global geopolitics. Its former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has, time and again, been more than obnoxious in his behaviour with European diplomats and heads of states giving out impressions that to Israel Europe has become a passé and it can thrive without any “strategic, economic and cultural ties to Europe.” Lieberman and Israel’s present leadership have been wrong to believe that it can “build strategic depth via Russia and China.”
Carlo Strenger, an existential psychoanalyst and philosopher, says that such a belief was a sheer stupidity. Lieberman failed miserably in his attempts to get support from China and Russia when it mattered. China is at best interested in Israel’s technological and entrepreneurial know-how, and Russia is making clear at every juncture that its interest in playing a central role in the Middle East will in no way be impeded by Israel’s needs — for example by selling advanced missiles to Syria that can reach Hezbollah.
EU’s stand on settlement may breach the barriers and its decision not to finance Israel’s crimes may encourage others to follow the suit. But, more than that the decision shows how peeved Europe has been with Israel. For the past few years and most so during its offensives against Gaza in November 2012 Israel, with impunity, had been destroying infrastructural facilities set up in Gaza. Most of these facilities were EU funded. Angry Europe is in no mood to take any nonsense from Israel.
The condescension and arrogance with which Bibi responded has surprised few. Over the years he has perfected this art to browbeat global dissension. But who cares now. Not at least Europe. The continent has shown Israel its place in the world. In an emerging global order Israel is now gradually getting isolated. The world is indeed becoming impatient with Israel.
In January 6, 2011, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton made V sign for victory with a chicken leg, standing next to former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad. This angered the Zionists who construed the gesture as an exhibition of overt anti-Semitism, a chutzpah. What the Zionist entity in Middle East failed to understand was the degree to which the world, Europe in Particular, was becoming irritated with Israel.
Neither Bibi’s hubris nor his government’s pomposity will make EU fold or rescind its decision. Stuart Eizenstat, former deputy secretary of the US Treasury, a senior advisor to president Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the European Union, has a month ago made Israel aware of its status in the world. Eizenstat warned that if Israel would not change its settlement policies it may be facing more economic sanctions.
“The EU’s new guidelines forbidding financing or supporting Israeli Institutions in the West Bank (has) send the right message” and proves Eizenstat right. Europe has not delegitimised Israel but has made it clear it will not tolerate colonisation of Palestinian land.
The move is not an attempt to impose any external edict on Israel neither a bid to reshape its map. Europe simply seeks to tell the Zionists that their colonisation of Palestinian land is a felony which the world is no longer willing to overlook and condone.
Israel ought to pay heed to the world’s changing perceptions. Else, risk what Yoel Marcus foresees. Bibi will put Israel at the end of the line.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.