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Europe Draws The (Green) Line

July 18th, 2013by Gershom Gorenberg · 1 Comment · Politics and Policy

Gershom Gorenberg

My new article is up at the American Prospect:

Survey of Israel map This is the chronicle of a crisis foretold years in advance,” said the Israeli ex-ambassador to Germany, in that petulant tone of a diplomat working very hard not to sound infuriated. Shimon Stein was trying to explain new European Union sanctions against Israeli settlements. Neither journalists nor politicians should sound so shocked by the EU move, he lectured the anchor of state radio’s morning news program. He was right, but he was trying to outshout a hurricane of public anger and disbelief. The anchor herself had begun the show with a riff of indignant surprise that the EU considered her Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem to be a settlement.

Of course, the EU position has consistently been that the country called Israel is defined by its pre-1967 borders, or Green Line—and that anything built beyond those borders is not part of Israel. The sanctions are designed to give more teeth to that position. Under new budget guidelines, EU bodies must make sure not to fund any Israeli activities in occupied territory. Any future agreements between the European Union and Israel must explicitly state that they apply only within the pre-’67 lines. Let’s be clear: This is not an economic boycott of Israel, nor a declaration that Israel is an apartheid state. Rather, the EU is drawing the distinction between legitimate Israel and illegitimate settlements with a thick marker. In the sanctions debate, the Europeans are taking a moderate stance: pro-Israel, anti-occupation.

Such subtleties do not reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the rightists who dominate his government, or West Bank settlers. The new guidelines will be issued officially tomorrow, but the daily Ha’aretz got the document and published the news on Tuesday. The hurricane struck immediately. Netanyahu held a panicked meeting with top ministers and officials, and emerged to tell the media, “We will not accept any outside diktat about our borders.” Economics Minister Naftali Bennett described the European measures as “an economic terror attack.” (Bennett, leader of a pro-settlement party and a proponent of partial annexation of the West Bank, had said on national radio just a week before that in meetings around the globe, he has found that the world is interested only in “prices, economics, industry and growth”—not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) The head of a regional council of settlements—the rough equivalent of a county government, but one in which settlers are represented and Palestinians are not—denounced the EU’s “blatant and unprecedented intervention in the affairs of an independent and democratic state.” Columnist Nadav Haetzni, striking a common theme on the right, said Europe was again expressing the “wholesale hatred” of Jews that it had shown “from the Middle Ages until the Holocaust.”

In reality, the new guidelines are significant precisely because of the otherwise warm ties between Israel and the EU—indeed, by some descriptions, uniquely close ties for a non-European country.

Read the rest here.

 

Gershom Gorenberg

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