The European Union and the Arab Israeli Conflict

Dr. Gresh discussed European foreign policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1969 to the present. In particular, he pointed to drastic changes that took place in the Middle East and which reshaped European foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Dr. Gresh noted that the first collective European step towards the Palestinian case was in 1971, through the Schuman Declaration in support of resolutions 242 and 338.  But it was the European Community’s 1980 Venice Declaration that clearly stated the need for finding a just solution to the Palestinian question which, it noted, is not only a refugee problem. Most importantly, it called for the involvement of the PLO in any future negotiations. This declaration was a historical moment for European foreign policy towards the Middle East, because it affirmed the Palestinian’s right to self-determination. This declaration, Dr. Gresh pointed out, came after the Camp David Accords of 1978 between Israel and Egypt, whose mediator was former President of the United States Jimmy Carter. Gradually, the EU’s position towards the Middle East shifted with such events as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the first and second Intifadas, with the EU emphasizing the importance of regional peace building through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He also indicated that the main problem facing European foreign policy is that it is reluctant ever to oppose the US actively. Ever since the 1991 Madrid conference, culminating in the 1993 Oslo Accords in 1993, Europe’s political role in the Middle East has been receding, as it focused more on economic and fiscal aspects. Dr. Gresh stated that the Oslo Accords created many illusions, because Europe thought that this treaty would bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Dr. Gresh concluded the lecture by emphasizing Europe’s incapacity to translate its role into effective and applicable polices on the ground.

Thursday, December 1, 2011 - 11