GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The European Union expressed concern over the national law that was approved by the Israeli Knesset July 19. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini clarified that the law grants Jews alone the right to self-determination in the country and will hinder a two-state solution.
“We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution, we believe it is the only way forward and any step that would further complicate or prevent this solution of becoming a reality should be avoided,” stated Mogherini July 19.
The Jewish nation-state law reads: “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” It demotes Arabic from an official language to a secondary language. There are 1.8 million Arabs in Israel, 20% of the total Israeli population of 9 million people.
Maja Kocijancic, Mogherini’s spokesperson, asserted in a July 13 press conference that the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the areas it occupied in 1967 and does not consider them Israeli territories. The conference came against the background of a diplomatic dispute between Ireland (an EU member) and Israel over a bill banning the importation of products from Israeli settlements to Ireland.
On July 11, the Irish Senate voted 25 to 20 in favor of a bill banning Ireland’s importation of products from Israeli settlements. The bill will be presented to parliament for approval, though the ruling party in Ireland opposes it. The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Irish ambassador to Israel July 12 to protest the bill and threatened to close the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Rights activist and campaign director for Avaaz in the Palestinian territories Fadi Quran posted the result of the vote on Facebook from Ireland. He called it a historic victory for the Palestinian people and an accomplishment honoring the victims of the Great March of Return protests in Gaza and the resilience of the people of Khan al-Ahmar and Palestinian refugee camps.
Quran told Al-Monitor that he is currently lobbying for a similar law in Spain. He explained that the objective is to hurt Israel economically by boycotting settlement products and institutions. Israel stands to lose billions of dollars and could be forced to abide by international law, he added.
Meanwhile, the head of the political science department in Al-Azhar University in Gaza, Mkhaimar Abusada, told Al-Monitor that the EU stance has remained unchanged since the issuance of UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, when Israel annexed Palestinian territories and the EU declared them occupied lands.
Abusada said the EU stances are just formalities that will not change the status quo in a state like Israel. He recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in July 2004 on the illegality of the construction of a separation wall in the 1967 territories and the need to remove the wall and compensate Palestinians for the losses incurred. The wall still stands.
The EU is also sending the message that Israel’s settlement expansions are illegal, like the development in Khan al-Ahmar that stirred angry European reactions. Israel sought to bulldoze the Bedouin village in East Jerusalem.
Walid Modallal, a political science professor at the Islamic University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that Europeans understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and must balance it with their interests in the region. He added that the EU is far from uniform, as many European states sympathize with the Palestinian cause and support the two-state solution, while others are more aligned with Israeli politics.
Modallal said, “European diplomacy is under a lot of pressure from Israel and the US to give supportive stances. But Europe is well aware that Israel is taking unilateral measures that oppose the international community’s inclinations.” He went on, “The EU is worried about [Donald] Trump’s steps and the 'deal of the century.' Therefore, it is anticipating matters with stances that would spare it future embarrassment and allow it to maintain its role and protect its interests in the Middle East.”
He added, “The EU considers the settlements illegal. The Irish bill entails putting special labels on Israeli settlement products to single them out. However, this bill does not bind other EU states to refrain from importing Israeli settlement merchandise."
Modallal noted that the economic, cultural, diplomatic and academic boycott has been effective. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is active in Europe and other European countries will probably follow in Ireland’s footsteps, he said. “Europeans are increasingly sympathizing with the Palestinian cause, with the Great March of Return protests and the unjustified Israeli violence against protesters. International reports have contributed to revealing Israeli crimes, which pressures European parliaments to condemn Israeli abuses.”
French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal told the Israeli Maariv newspaper July 14 that France will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only if the Palestinians and Israelis reach a peace agreement that considers Jerusalem the capital of Israel. She asserted that the celebrations over moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem fueled the bloody protests on the borders between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and reiterated that France supports the two-state solution.