Gerald Steinberg 2 (2)Click for full article.


The crisis between Israel and the European Union has been simmering for a long time, and with product labeling (an interpretative note to protect consumers, according to official EU statements), has reached the boiling point. In suspending talks and consultations with the EU, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a major effort to restructure this broken relationship, and confront core differences over Middle East realities and how to address them.

In some ways, the explosion has been building for 35 years…Then, as now, the responsibility for implementing this vision was placed entirely on Israel’s shoulders, as the party with “all of the power,” from the dominant European perspective.

Palestinians were and are viewed as powerless victims, and policy makers in Venice and after often had a tendency to give little attention to issues such as terrorism, incitement and rejection of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty, regardless of borders. An end to occupation and Palestinian statehood would ostensibly resolve these lesser obstacles.

Ambassador John Gatt-Rutter… refers to “the Israeli occupation” and “illegal settlements” as the main obstacles to peace, and expresses sympathy for Palestinian victims of violence, but not for Israelis… His advice to the Palestinians is restricted to calling for unity, noting that they “would be well advised to restore their national and democratic project through holding elections.” Ending terrorism and accepting Israeli legitimacy are not part of his or the EU’s agenda.

It was the Israeli anger at discriminatory product labeling (the EU does not apply this sanction in any other territorial dispute), including the patronizing way it was presented by EU officials that led Prime Minister Netanyahu to suspend official diplomatic discussions with EU officials and institutions. This is a wake-up call designed to convey the Israeli response through a symbolic move, suspending diplomatic contacts that are largely symbolic and devoid of content.

A serious reappraisal will mean moving away from the Palestinian victimization narrative, and the demonization of Israel that has done so much damage in Europe.