For many years, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Adalah, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and similar groups have enjoyed major influence in the European Union and its member states. This network of nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) is central in shaping European perceptions of Israel and of the conflict. The power of these political advocacy organizations has no parallel in any other conflict zone or comparable context.
At least some of this power is derived from the ability of the EU and these NGOs to keep their connections out of the public eye—protocols of their meetings are top secret, as are documents related to the generous funding they receive. While the
EU has extensive transparency requirements for lobbying on internal issues, the realm of foreign policy is excluded. Now, Benedetta Voltolini, an academic at the prestigious French research institute Centre d’études européennes de Sciences
Po, has placed the issues on the academic table.
Voltolini’s book poses important questions about the role of non-state actors (NSAs) in EU policy-making on the conflict. Providing the answers, however, is more difficult. In reviewing the role of social interactions and relationships in political influence networks (p. 29), and on how these relationships are reflected in lobbying on foreign policy issues, she gets an “A.” The secrecy surrounding the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) prevents definitive research. As a result, attempts to answer the core question of whether “NSAs have an impact on EU foreign policy” (p. 2) in general, and in the Israeli–Palestinian arena in particular, fall short.