EU-Israel relations “upgraded”
present for a rogue state
EU has had a special relationship with Israel since the two parties signed
an economic co-operation agreement in 1975.
In the following 30 years, relations between the two parties have developed
to such an extent that today no other state has a closer relationship with the
EU than Israel.
16 June 2008, as a 60th birthday present to Israel, the EU
agreed to “upgrade” relations further. And
it did so in the face of fierce opposition from the Palestinian Authority.
key milestones in EU-Israel relations are as follows:
signs an economic co-operation agreement with the European Community.
1981: The Delegation of
the European Commission to the state of Israel  officially opens.
1995: Israel signs the Barcelona
Declaration, which established the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership as a
framework for political, economic and social co-operation between the EU and
states in the Mediterranean region.
signs an Association Agreement under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which granted
it privileged access to the EU market in 2000.
becomes the first non-EU state to take part in the EU’s scientific and technical
signs an agreement with the EU, allowing it to participate in Galileo, the EU’s
project for a Global Satellite Navigation System.
2004: Israel becomes a partner in the
European Neighbourhood Policy agreeing an Action Plan with the EU covering activity
in political, economic and social fields.
2008: The EU decides to further
“upgrade” its relations with Israel.
Contempt for UN Charter
1975, while relations between the EU and Israel
have been blossoming, Israel
has continuously breached the generally accepted rules of international
behaviour laid down in the UN Charter. Article
2.4 of the UN Charter states:
“All [UN] Members shall refrain in their international relations from
the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the
Purposes of the United Nations.” 
its existence as a state, Israel
has treated this Article of the UN Charter with contempt and used force against
its neighbours on a regular basis.
1956, in a conspiracy with the UK
and France, it attacked Egypt, the conspirators being forced to withdraw
by the US.
1967, it attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria
and forcibly occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, and annexed East Jerusalem
and the Syrian Golan Heights.
proceeded to build Jewish settlements in the area it conquered, contrary to the
Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49 of which forbids an occupying power from
transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it
occupies. It has thumbed its nose at
Security Council demands (in resolutions 446, 452 and 465) to cease building
settlements and remove those it has built.
it has thumbed its nose at Security Council demands that it reverse its
annexation of East Jerusalem (in resolutions 252,
267, 271, 298, 476 and 478) and of the Golan Heights
(in resolution 497).
it has thumbed its nose at the ruling of the International Court of Justice in
July 2004 that it “cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being
built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East
Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated and to repeal
or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating
than 40 years later, forcible occupation, and settlement building, continues.
East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are still
annexed – and the Wall lengthens daily.
1978, and again in 1982, it attacked Lebanon and forcibly occupied part
of it from 1982 until 2000. For 20
years, it ignored the Security Council demand (in resolution 425) that called
upon it “immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial
integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory”. It finally withdrew its ground forces from Lebanon (apart
from Shebaa Farms), because of military pressure from Hezbollah.
again in July 2006, and withdrew a month later, again because of military
pressure from Hezbollah. Israeli
aircraft still regularly violate Lebanese sovereignty today, contrary to the UN
Charter and various Security Council resolutions.
is violating over 30 Security Council resolutions that require action by it and
it alone . If any other state in the world were guilty
of such persistent refusal to obey the will of the “international community”,
it would be subject to continuous threats of economic and/or military sanctions
by the EU. Instead, it is courted by the
Israel’s use of force, and threat
to use force, contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter, continues
unabated. On 6 September 2007, an
Israeli aircraft entered Syrian airspace and bombed a building allegedly
housing a nuclear facility. Hardly a day
passes without it threatening to attack Iran, contrary to Article 2.4 of
No state in the world is more deserving than Israel of being described as a
“rogue” state. Yet, the EU has close
relations with it, and is seeking even closer relations.
most important development in the EU’s relations with Israel occurred in Barcelona in November 1995, when it signed the
Barcelona Declaration . This established the Euro-Mediterranean
encompassing 15 EU states plus 11 states in the Mediterranean region (Algeria, Cyrus, Egypt, Israel,
Jordan, Lebanon, Malta,
Morocco, Syria, Tunisia
and the Palestinian Authority.
the same time, Israel
signed an Association Agreement 
the Partnership, aka the Euro-Med Agreement, giving it privileged
access to the EU market. Today, about
33% of Israel’s
exports are to the EU and 37% of its imports are from the EU (amounting to €9.8
billion and €13.8 billion, respectively, in 2006).
The Barcelona Declaration established what it describes as “a
comprehensive partnership among the participants”. In addition, the participants undertook to behave
according to international norms, both internationally and domestically.
example, the participants undertook to:
“act in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other obligations under
international law, in particular those arising out of regional and
international instruments to which they are party; …
“refrain, in accordance with the rules of international law,
from any direct or indirect intervention in the internal affairs of another
“respect the territorial integrity and unity of each of the
“settle their disputes by peaceful means, call upon all
participants to renounce recourse to the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity of another participant, including the acquisition of
territory by force, and reaffirm the right to fully exercise sovereignty by
legitimate means in accordance with the UN Charter and international law;” 
Obviously, from the outset in
November 1995, the EU made an exception of Israel when it came to abiding by
these generally recognised principles of international law, otherwise it would
never have allowed it to be a participant in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership
1995, when Israel signed the
Barcelona Declaration and undertook to abide by these principles, it was
breaking all four of them in relation to Lebanon
two of its fellow participants in the Partnership, by forcibly occupying
territory belonging to them. In 1995, it
was forcibly occupying the West Bank and Gaza,
contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter.
It was planting Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, contrary to Article 49 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention. And it was violating
some 25 Security Council resolutions requiring action by it and it alone,
contrary to its “obligations under international law” and to Article 25 of the
UN Charter, which require member states of the UN to abide by decisions of the
Yet, the EU welcomed it into the
Partnership, despite its obvious contempt for the principles enshrined in the
Declaration establishing the Partnership.
Not very much has changed in the
interim – Israel still
forcibly occupies Lebanese and Syrian territory and the West Bank and Gaza (and overflies
Lebanese territory regularly). Today, it
is violating even more Security Council resolutions requiring action by it and
it alone (over 30 now). And bombing a building
allegedly housing a nuclear facility is not obviously compatible with the
principle of settling disputes with fellow participants by peaceful means.
One might think that this continued
contempt for principles enshrined in the Declaration establishing the
Partnership might lead the EU to question Israel’s suitability as a partner. But, on the contrary, the EU wants to hug it
Middle East WMD
In the Barcelona Declaration, Israel also signed
up to the following:
“The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively
verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear,
chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.
“Furthermore the parties will consider practical steps to
prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well
as excessive accumulation of conventional arms.” 
Israel is the only state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons (and probably
the only one that possesses chemical and biological weapons). So, its disarmament of these weapons is a necessary
(and probably a sufficient) condition for bringing about a “Middle East Zone
free of weapons of mass destruction”.
Needless to say, therefore, progress in bringing this about has been
noticeable by its absence since Israel
signed up to “pursue” this objective in 1995.
There has been no progress either on
the Security Council’s demand in resolution 487, passed on 19 June 1981, that “Israel
urgently … place its nuclear facilities under IAEA [International Atomic Energy
Agency] safeguards”. 27 years later, Israel still hasn’t placed its nuclear
facilities under IAEA safeguards, nor is there any noticeable pressure from the
EU to make it do so, let alone disarm in order to produce a nuclear free zone
in the Middle East, which parties to the
Barcelona Declaration are supposed to “pursue”.
By contrast, Iran’s nuclear
facilities, including its uranium enrichment facilities, are under IAEA supervision. It is worth noting that, after extensive
inspection in Iran, the IAEA
has found no evidence that Iran
has a nuclear weapons programme, or ever had one. By contrast, Israel has possessed nuclear
weapons and the means of delivering them for around 40 years. It is estimated that today Israel has
around 200 nuclear warheads and various delivery systems, including by
submarine-launched missile. It is
capable of wiping Iran,
and every Arab state, off the map at the touch of a button. Strange that the EU is actively pressuring Iran about its nuclear activities, but not Israel.
Israel has comprehensively failed to
fulfil the obligations it signed up to in the Barcelona Declaration. The Euro-Med Agreement with the EU under the
Euro-Mediterranean Partnership also contains human rights obligations. Article 2 of the Agreement states:
“Relations between the Parties, as well as all the
provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights
and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy
and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.” 
That states plainly that human
rights compliance by Israel
is an “essential element” of the Agreement – not an optional element, nor a
desirable element, but an essential element.
There isn’t the slightest doubt that
Israel has continuously
failed to live up to these obligations, the most recent example being its
economic strangulation of the people of Gaza
in 2007/8. Of this, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council on 26
effective Israeli isolation of Gaza is not
justified, given Israel’s
continuing obligations to the people of Gaza.
It amounts to collective punishment and is contrary to international
humanitarian law.” 
Collective punishment is contrary to
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states:
“No protected person may
be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective
penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are
The EU itself has described the
economic strangulation of Gaza
as “collective punishment”, External Relations Commissioner Benita
Ferrero-Waldner saying on 21 January 2008:
“I am against this collective
punishment of the people of Gaza. I urge the
Israeli authorities to restart fuel supplies and open the crossings for the
passage of humanitarian and commercial supplies.” 
The Irish Foreign Minister, Dermot
Ahern, agreed, telling the Dail Eireann on 11 March 2008:
“I remain deeply
concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. It is unacceptable that Israel should isolate the people of Gaza and cut off
essential supplies in order to exert pressure on them to reject Hamas. I agree
with the United Nations that this constitutes collective punishment and is
illegal under international humanitarian law.” 
So, the UN, the EU and Ireland are of the firm opinion that, by its
economic strangulation of Gaza,
violated international humanitarian law.
And it is not as if this economic strangulation of Gaza is a momentary lapse from an otherwise
unblemished record of human rights compliance.
On the contrary, the collective punishment of the people of Gaza is the openly
acknowledged policy of the Israeli Government that has been in operation, to a
greater or lesser extent, for years.
Famously, when Israel limited commercial shipments of food into Gaza in
2006, a senior government adviser, Dov Weisglass, explained that “the idea is
to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger” .
There is not the slightest doubt
that, by its economic strangulation of Gaza in
breached its human rights obligations under Article 2 of the Association Agreement,
obligations that are stated to be an “essential element” of the Agreement. If Article 2 is to be taken seriously, then
the Agreement should be suspended. Clearly,
yet again, the EU makes an exception for Israel.
for Scientific and Technical Co-operation
In August 1996, Israel became
the first non-EU state to take part in the EU’s scientific and technical
research programmes. Since then, Israeli
researchers, universities and companies have had the same access as their EU
counterparts to EU research funds, in exchange for a contribution to the funds
Under the fourth agreement, signed
in July 2007, Israel
is set to contribute €440 million to the €50 billion budget of the current EU
programme (Framework Programme 7), which runs from 2007 to 2013. Representatives of Israel will also have the
opportunity to participate as observers in the implementing committees and
bodies of the programme.
European Neighbourhood Policy
further upgrade in EU-Israel relations took place in 2004, when Israel became a
“partner” in the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) . This encompasses both the EU’s southern
neighbours that were already in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and its Eastern European
EU provides money for projects under the ENP, €5.6 billion in total being
allocated for the period 2007-10.
However, because of Israel’s
relatively advanced state of economic development, a very small amount of this
– €9 million – is specifically allocated to it (see European Neighbourhood and
Partnership Instrument ). Clearly, Israel’s reasons for participating
in the ENP are political rather than economic.
relations with other states under the ENP are supposed to be tailored to the
honouring of human rights and other obligations. As the ENP website says:
“The EU offers our neighbours a privileged
relationship, building upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and
human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and
sustainable development). The ENP goes beyond existing relationships to offer a
deeper political relationship and economic integration. The level of
ambition of the relationship will depend on the extent to which these values
are shared [my
Israel was one of 7 states
with which “action plans” were agreed in December 2004 – the others were Ukraine, Moldova,
Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and the Palestinian
Authority . Since then, Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia
in Eastern Europe and Egypt
in the Mediterranean area have been added to the list.
“action plan” for Israel 
was based on a European Commission report on Israel 
dated May 2004. One might expect that
this would have examined Israel’s
human rights record closely in order to determine whether or not Israel was fit
for an ENP relationship. And it does, to
a degree: in a 24-page document, there are a few paragraphs that comment on (a)
discrimination against Israeli Arabs and (b) Israeli action in the Occupied Territories.
On discrimination against Israeli Arabs, the document
“The Arab minority, Muslim, Christian and Druze, makes
up almost 20% of the Israeli population. Although the Declaration of
Independence proclaims equality for
citizens, Israeli legislation contains laws and regulations that favour
the Jewish majority. … As highlighted by
an Israeli Commission report presented in 2003 (“Or Commission”), the Arab
minority also suffers from discrimination in many areas including budget
allocations, official planning, employment, education and health. … The Arab minority is severely
affected by the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law of 2003, suspending for a
renewable one-year period, the possibility of family reunification, subject to
“About 100,000 Arabs (Bedouins), mostly in the Negev, live in villages considered illegal by the State.
…” (p 10)
“According to the Israeli poverty definition, about
14% of the Israeli households were living in poverty in 2001, and the share is
expected to have risen in the following years.
Figures are higher among the Arab minority (where 45% of the families
fell in the poverty category).” (p 16)
One might have thought that a state which, throughout
its existence, has deliberately engaged in religious discrimination against a
minority of its population would be deemed unfit by the EU for an ENP relationship. Or has religious discrimination become an “EU
And it’s not as if Israel has taken steps to
eliminate, or even mitigate, this discrimination since 2004. The latest Commission progress report on ENP
implementation in Israel
in April 2008, says:
“The promotion and protection of the Israeli Arab
minority did not advance significantly during the reporting period [my
emphasis], particularly in areas like land allocation, housing, planning,
economic development, investment in social infrastructure and justice. A number
of initiatives were launched in the field of justice and education but results
were limited. The Arab education system continued to lag behind Jewish
education. A clear strategy for land allocation to Israeli Arabs remains to be
adopted. In March 2007, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination (CERD) published a report on the situation of the Israeli Arab
minority and asked the Israeli government to take significant measures to
promote minority rights in the above-mentioned areas.”
On Israeli action in the Occupied Territories,
report from May 2004 says:
“… In August 2003 the [United Nations] Committee [for
Human Rights] reiterated its concerns at the increasing extent of human rights
violations in those territories, particularly through military operations, the
obstruction of freedom of movement and house demolitions. The EU recognises Israel’s right
to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. It has urged the Government of
Israel, in exercising this right, to exert maximum effort to avoid civilian
casualties and take no action that aggravates the humanitarian and economic
plight of the Palestinian people. It has called on Israel to abstain from any punitive
measures which are not in accordance with international law, including
extrajudicial killings and destruction of houses.” (p 8)
is difficult to believe that these few sentences constitute the full extent of
what the EU has to say about the misery Israel has inflicted on
Palestinians in 40 years of occupation.
Even so, one might have thought that the evidence presented in them was
sufficient to render Israel
unfit in the eyes of the EU for an ENP relationship. Or have “extrajudicial killings and
destruction of houses” also become “EU values”?
Have matters progressed since 2004? The Commission progress report from April
“Issues raised in the framework of the political dialogue included inter
alia: the peace process, the situation in the Middle East, the situation of the
Arab minority in Israel, restrictions of movement in West Bank and Gaza Strip,
the construction of the separation barrier, administrative detentions, the
dismantling of outposts, the envisaged expansion of certain Israeli settlements
in East Jerusalem, more checkpoints. Little concrete progress has however
been achieved on the issues as such [my emphasis]. In 2007 the fatalities resulting from
conflict-related incidents were 377 Palestinians (compared to 643 in 2006) and
13 Israelis (compared to 27 in 2006).”
60th birthday present
Despite Israel’s abysmal failure to live up
to its obligations under current agreements, its relationship with the EU is
now to be “upgraded”. This was done in
the teeth of opposition from the Palestinian “Prime Minister”, Salam Fayyad, who,
in a letter to EU leaders on 27 May 2008, wrote:
“I am writing you to register my deep reservations
concerning such an upgrade while Israel continues to systematically
violate Palestinian human rights and flaunt its international obligations,
including certain of its commitments to the EU.” 
The decision to “upgrade” was taken at the 8th
meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council on 16 June 2008. It was done at Israel’s request, as the Israeli Ministry
of Foreign Affairs explains:
“More than a year ago, Foreign Minister Livni attended
a meeting of the Association Council and initiated the upgrading process
between Israel and the EU in
recognition of Israel's
upcoming 60th birthday.” 
Why was the decision
taken? An EU statement on the outcome of
the Council meeting says:
“Our common goal to
upgrade relations stems from our awareness of the traditional links, the
cultural and human values, and the economic and security interests that we
share. Israel is a key
partner of the EU in the Mediterranean. It has
contributed to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership since its origins in 1995.
As a vibrant market economy, with a well developed public administration
and a functioning rule of law, Israel
also possesses the necessary institutional structures which permit it to work
ever more closely and intensively with the European Union.” 
No mention there that “the promotion
and protection of the Israeli Arab minority did not advance significantly” in
2006-8 “particularly in areas like land allocation, housing, planning, economic
development, investment in social infrastructure and justice”. No mention either that there was “little
concrete progress” on “the situation of the Arab minority in Israel,
restrictions of movement in West Bank and Gaza Strip, the construction of the
separation barrier, administrative detentions, the dismantling of outposts, the
envisaged expansion of certain Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, more
does the “upgrade” amount to? The Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs says there are three elements to it:
of the diplomatic dialogue between the Israeli and EU leaderships, by means of
regular annual meetings on a senior level. In addition, there will be increased
meetings between government ministers, senior officials and parliamentarians
from both sides.
“Israel will join European agencies, programs and
working groups: This will mean bringing the Israeli economy and society
closer to European norms and standards, and increasing the competitiveness of
Israeli companies in the European market, primarily in the field of high-tech,
with the signing of an aviation agreement that will lower prices for both
sides, and others.
integration into the European single market: A joint working group will
examine the areas in which Israel
is capable of integrating into the European single market. This will lay the
groundwork for an additional upgrading of relations in the future.”
These matters are of little economic
significance to Israel
but it has achieved a considerable political victory. The greatest “rogue” state in the world,
which has been collectively punishing the people of Gaza for the past year and
has killed over 500 of them in that time ,
has been given a 60th birthday present by the EU, when objectively
its behaviour merits economic and/or military sanctions to compel it to behave
according to the generally recognised principles of international law.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign
Affairs is understandably very happy with Israel’s relations with the EU:
relations with Europe and with the EU have
been improving in recent years. Israel
enjoys a significant improvement in diplomatic relations with most European
states, as well as with EU institutions, which is expressed, among other ways,
in the many visits to Israel
paid by European leaders.
“In the past year a number of important agreements have been
reached, including: an upgrade in the diplomatic-strategic dialogue between Israel and the EU; Israel's joining the R & D
program of the EU; and an additional liberalization in the field of
agriculture. A framework agreement was signed for Israel to enter EU programs, and an
aviation agreement is ready for signing. Also, a high-level business dialogue
has been established between Israeli and European business communities.
Negotiations on free trade in financial services are also about to begin.”
23 June 2008