Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Sixth Report


166.  The credibility of the Middle East Peace Process needs to be restored by a renewed, concerted and sustained effort by the whole international community. We believe therefore that the EU, which has many interests at stake in this region, should participate actively and forcefully in such an effort. (Para 5)

167.  The EU's consistent support since 1980 for a negotiated two-state solution as the basis for a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has subsequently gained the adherence of the majority of the international community and, above all, since 2002, of the US. This is one of the major successes of EU diplomacy in the MEPP, particularly in influencing the evolution of US policy. The seriousness of the current situation is a major test for the EU which again needs to put its full weight behind the search for a comprehensive solution. For 20 years extremists have been allowed to dictate the agenda. Any resumed peace process now needs to be proofed against their acts. (Para 11)

168.  We are not convinced that the Road Map, as originally conceived in 2003, is the only vehicle for progress, and consider that the interim steps it describes should no longer be pursued to the exclusion of the consideration of final status issues such as the territorial limits of the two states, the fate of refugees and the status of Jerusalem. We are reinforced in this view by the recent statement by High Representative Javier Solana that the time has come for the EU and the Quartet to focus more directly on resolving the issues which are at the heart of the conflict. (Para 20)

169.  We believe that the EU needs to explore more imaginative ways of re-engaging the Israelis in the search for peace. EU policy contains a clearly stated position calling on the Israeli government to take "further steps, including the freezing of settlement activities and dismantling of settlement outposts and Israeli abstention from measures which are not in accordance with international law, including extra-judicial killings and collective punishment." (Para 26)

170.  We believe the EU needs to use all the instruments at its disposal. The European Neighbourhood Policy, in particular, offers a promising route through which the EU can work for a deepening bilateral relationship with Israel within the context of steps towards resolving Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. The EU needs to make clear to the Israeli government that there could be opportunities for developing the relationship within the Neighbourhood Action Plan. Conversely, a lack of engagement by Israel in the MEPP would in the long run hinder the process of economic harmonisation and bilateral technical and security cooperation. (Para 33)

171.  We are gravely concerned about the security, human rights and socio-economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is becoming evident that the Quartet approach contributed nothing to ameliorate the crisis. (Para 40)

172.  The EU should engage more urgently and consistently with the Israeli government to persuade them to transfer the remainder of the withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues to the Palestinian authorities in a way that benefits all Palestinians[33]. (Para 41)

173.  We believe that the European Union's support for a Palestinian coalition government, including Hamas, could not have been unconditional. To require that a Hamas-led government not only renounce attacks on Israel but use its governmental authority to prevent such attacks by others was entirely justified. (Para 45)

174.  However, the EU should not allow the peace process to be held hostage by any faction, individual, or state. The history of the Middle East is scarred by peace initiatives that have been derailed by extremists on both sides. Although each situation is different, recent experience in other situations, such as Northern Ireland, can serve as a source of inspiration and valuable lessons on how to bring into the peace process individuals and movements who previously espoused violence and how to avoid the process succumbing to acts of violence. (Para 46)

175.  We believe that the EU's objective should be to attempt to maintain a peace process that is as inclusive as possible, while firmly rejecting attempts by outsiders and extremists to derail it. Dialogue with the key parties is an essential aspect of the peace process, and channels of communication should as far as possible be kept open. (Para 47)

176.  The requirement that the Palestinian government accept and respect positions established collectively by the Arab side, most recently at the Arab League Summit in Riyadh, is entirely justified. But conditions about the formal recognition by Hamas of the state of Israel amalgamate elements of any final status negotiations with the preliminaries to such negotiations. We believe that the interpretation of the conditions set by the Quartet was undesirably rigid and we would urge the government and the EU to reconsider the precise formulation of any conditions and to apply them in future with a reasonable amount of flexibility. (Para 51)

177.  We are concerned that military support for one faction over another heightened tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories. (Para 55)

178.  We also believe that the EU should engage in a frank dialogue with the United States on this issue, with a view to ensuring that all aid provided by members of the Quartet improves the cohesion of the Palestinian administration and avoids increasing tensions. (Para 56)

179.  We also believe that it is a necessary condition for any peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbours that there should be a Palestinian Authority capable of fulfilling any responsibilities it has accepted under such a settlement. It should also be able to provide stability and good governance within the Palestinian party to a two-state solution. Accordingly, the European Union needs to keep that ultimate objective firmly in mind at every stage of its dealings with the Palestinians and Israelis and the wider international community; and to concentrate its efforts on moving towards that objective. The provision of emergency humanitarian aid by the EU must not conceal the need to move as soon as possible to a situation where the EU's resources go directly to properly constituted Palestinian governmental institutions. (Para 57)

180.  The present situation on the ground is far removed from the stated objective of creating a viable Palestinian state. But the "Mecca agreement" between Hamas and Fatah brokered by the Saudi government offered, the possibility of a first step along that road. The European Union needs, by its statements and its actions, to encourage further progress along these lines. (Para 58)

181.  We believe that a key role for the EU in the EU/US relationship is to press upon the US the importance to the future of the region of its sustaining an active, balanced and consistent interest and engagement in the MEPP, and supporting the Palestinians as well as Israel in achieving the two state solution. In pursuit of this objective, the EU and Member State governments should give their full support to their parliamentarians, in making full use of the existing relationship and in increasing links to explain and discuss the European position with their counterparts in the US Congress. (Para 63)

182.  We acknowledge the importance of the diplomatic energy and commitment to reviving the MEPP demonstrated in recent months by Saudi Arabia and other Arab League states, and the facilitating role played by Saudi Arabia in the formation of the Palestinian National Unity Government as having been one of the most helpful developments in recent months. While it is premature, and perhaps unwise, to focus too closely on the machinery and form that the new, and unprecedented, engagement of the Arab states in the MEPP will take, the EU and other members of the Quartet should take seriously and encourage the renewal of Arab regional leadership. Recent initiatives, such as the designation by the Arab League of Egypt and Jordan as the League's interlocutors with Israel and the Palestinians in the MEPP, should be fully supported by the EU. (Para 70)

183.  We recognise the importance of the EU continuing its engagement with Syria, not least to test President Assad's seriousness of purpose. Syria has clear and legitimate national and strategic interests at stake in the MEPP. Both the Israelis and Palestinians have an interest in ensuring that Syria does not undermine the prospects for peace, either by supplying weapons to support Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon into Israel, or by providing a safe haven and financial support for a Hamas leadership in exile. (Para 76)

184.  We believe negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute must involve Lebanon, whose political stability and viability is a necessary element for progress towards such a settlement. We urge the EU to continue to give full support to the government of Lebanon, including by continuing to support the establishment of an international tribunal to try those suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other Lebanese public figures. (Para 83)

185.  The stability of Lebanon requires the continuing absence of hostilities along the country's border with Israel. We urge the EU therefore to give full support to UNIFIL II in its strengthened form and mandate, including the prevention of attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon, and to make clear to Israel that any military action from their side will be met by the condemnation of the international community. Given that the only remaining territorial dispute in the area concerns the Shebaa Farms, and in order to neutralise it as a source of conflict, we suggest that the EU seeks to convince Syria and Lebanon to refer the issue to the International Court of Justice, and to convince Israel to declare that it will respect any judgement by the Court and evacuate the area in dispute forthwith. (Para 84)

186.  We believe that it is important that the EU continues to engage with Iran diplomatically, but it should not allow the content of these negotiations to "leak into" or create a direct linkage to the MEPP. Iran should not be allowed to have a veto over the MEPP. (Para 91)

187.  We believe that leading EU Member States have an important role to play in any renewed peace effort and that this needs to be coordinated within and designed to support an overall EU position. The Government should direct the UK's involvement with these objectives in mind. (Para 99)

188.  The EU has a very wide range of instruments at its disposal, in addition to those available to the Member States, and plays an important role in coordinating aid to the Palestinian territories. We believe that the EU Member States should carefully consider the value of engaging in competing or parallel initiatives and démarches, and that they should closely coordinate their efforts in the framework of a coherent EU policy. (Para 100)

189.  We see the Quartet of the US, the EU, Russia and UN as continuing to be the essential diplomatic tool for coordinating the involvement of the wider international community in any such peace effort. The EU has already played an influential, but largely unacknowledged, role within the Quartet, introducing innovative proposals for the way forward. We believe that the EU's role within the Quartet needs to be more active and assertive than it has been in the past, providing leadership with imaginative ideas, including on final status issues and through engaging in a frank and intensive dialogue with other partners, in particular the US. This should however be done in private and with the aim of building consensus as the best means to preserve the Quartet's influence with both the parties to the conflict, with whom the EU and the Quartet should seek to pursue an even-handed approach. It is essential to ensure that fewer opportunities exist than in the past for the parties to the conflict to exploit divisions between international actors within the Quartet, and most especially those between the EU and US. We urge the Government to seek to ensure that the EU's representatives in the Quartet, notably the High Representative, get the backing they need to play a more active and assertive role. (Para 110)

190.  We welcome the greater role attributed to the High Representative's office in providing a focus for collective EU efforts, but consider that a more structured approach is required to coordinate and synchronise the diplomatic efforts of the High Representative with the economic and other instruments deployed by the Commission. The pro-active role of Dr Solana has gone a long way towards improving the situation. (Para 116)

191.  We consider that the High Representative, Javier Solana, assisted by the EU Special Representative, Marc Otte, has worked very actively and effectively towards achieving the objectives of the EU in relation to the MEPP. The question now arises as to whether the EU has the capacity in place to participate in intensive negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement. We would encourage the Council to make the necessary preparations so that the EU can quickly mobilise a full negotiating team to assist the peace process. (Para 117)

192.  We believe that the EU's extensive budgetary assistance and humanitarian aid has been vital to the establishment and maintenance of Palestinian institutions and to sustaining the Palestinian people and this should be publicised both in the region and outside. The EU should continue to make every effort to monitor the distribution of its aid in difficult circumstances. (Para 128)

193.  The EU should link its financial and technical assistance more directly to its political goals and make that assistance conditional on progress in institutional reform in the Palestinian territories and in the peace process. The EU role is important to strengthening the Palestinians' capacity both to assume their responsibility for achieving peace and to enhance governance standards and accountability in the everyday lives of Palestinian citizens which is critical to public support for the objectives of peace. (Para 129)

194.  We firmly support the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) but believe that it has been no more than a stop-gap measure, whose usefulness must not conceal or delay the need to move as soon as possible to a situation where the European Union's resources go to properly constituted Palestinian governmental institutions. The TIM cannot be a substitute for more normal economic conditions, in particular free movement and access, and the full transfer of withheld Palestinian revenues by the Israeli government. (Para 134)

195.  The TIM should accordingly not divert the attention of the EU from the root causes of the insecurity and poverty in the Palestinian territories. The Commission is to be commended on the way in which it quickly set up the Temporary International Mechanism in response to the boycott of the Palestinian government and on its leading role in co-ordinating humanitarian aid, including from the Member States. We would encourage the Commission to continue to work towards the effective coordination of humanitarian aid with other donors, including Arab states and the United States. (Para 135)

196.  We support the European Commission's plans to establish a successor mechanism to the TIM, even though the events of June 2007 re-opened the question of how EU funding mechanisms would evolve. In the meantime it will be important that aid should be available to Palestinians in all the occupied territories. Strict guarantees should be provided that funds will not be diverted to purposes other than those for which they are intended and, over the longer term, particular attention should be paid to reducing the aid dependency of Palestinians. (Para 141)

197.  We believe that work to set up EUPOL COPPS should resume when conditions allow, but it should be re-oriented and strengthened. The EU must address the weaknesses of EUPOL COPPS. In particular, the mission must focus on capacity-building and reform rather than equipment, and should strengthen rather than weaken the rule-of-law. Coordination with other operational actors and donors also appears to be an area of concern. (Para 153)

198.  We believe that discussions with the parties to the conflict and the members of the Quartet should commence with a view to identifying whether the EU may be in a position to support a peace settlement through the deployment of a peacekeeping mission. In the light of these discussions, the Council of the EU could consider undertaking scenario development and planning work for a possible EU operational mission to the Palestinian territories. (Para 155)

199.  We believe that while the Euro-Med Partnership has been useful in the past, it is now the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) that can make a contribution to developing relations with the parties to the MEPP. The advantage of the ENP is that it allows the EU to develop bilateral relations which are suited to each individual partner country. Progress made by each country is not dependent on progress made by other countries. Under the ENP, the EU offers various financial and other incentives to support the implementation of each country's Action Plan. (Para 161)

200.  There is a danger that the situation will deteriorate rapidly and that the crisis will spread beyond the Palestinian territories. In addition, events such as those of June 2007 may be used, as they have often been used in the past, as an excuse for inaction and neglect. We do not believe the international community can afford yet again to repeat these errors and should recognise an even greater urgency in seeking a solution. (Para 164)

201.  These recent events, in our view, reinforce the overall conclusion of our report, that the EU now needs to play a more active and imaginative role in the search for peace in the Middle East than it has done in recent years; they underline the importance of the main policy recommendations we have made. Indeed our view is strengthened that the EU needs to increase and sustain its effort to work more closely with all the main players towards an inclusive peace process and settlement. (Para 165)

33   The situation changed following the events of June 2007 (see footnote 5 at para. 28). Back

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