[Originally published on the Quaker Council for European Affairs website, qceablog.wordpress.com]
As an inhabitant of the Brussels ‘bubble’, I would say that every week brings something interesting. This year has been particularly eventful with the elections for the European Parliament and then the restructuring of the European Commission. This final week before the Christmas break has also been eventful. As Irish MEP Marian Harkin said today, when you see agreement between the (centre-right) European People’s Party, the (centre left) Socialists and Democrats, and the Greens, that is a step forward.
And what a step: the peacebuilding which the different political parties did between themselves, resulted in a joint resolution that passed by a large majority of MEPs (498 votes in favour, 88 against) in the European Parliament plenary session today (17 December 2014). The resolution“[s]upports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.” There is mention of the 1967 borders, with the “secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security”. And the resolution also “stresses that non-violent means and respect for human rights and humanitarian law are the only way to achieve a sustainable solution and a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Policy into action
So, what does this resolution mean? Well, first of all, the European Union, as a regional organisation and not a state itself, does not act to recognise states. Indeed, some EU Member states, such as Sweden, have recognised Palestine. However, as several MEPs and commentators noted, this is a symbol – of a unified Union stance for peace. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs has been called upon to facilitate this.
What can you do now?
The resolution also calls for parties to refrain from action which may act as an obstacle to the two-state solution. As the resolution makes it clear that the Palestinian state must be viable and contiguous, it is clear that one of the main actions which undermines the two-state solution, is the development of Israeli settlements in Palestine, including in East Jerusalem. The EU has taken a first important step in the 2013 guidelines preventing EU funding from going to entities based in the settlements. First of all, it is essential that we remember that Israelis are just as diverse as any population: there are peace activists and fervent nationalists, religious and secular people. It is the policy of the Israeli government, most notably the expansion of settlements, which QCEA opposes.
However, people continue to buy products grown or manufactured in the settlements. QCEA advocates a pro-Israel but anti-settlement buying policy among consumers. Freedom to choose is an aspect valued by many in European society. For people to have the freedom to choose to buy only from within the pre-1967 borders of Israel – to send their consumer euro only to Israel itself and not to settlements – the product should be correctly labelled with regard to origin. But, more than that, the impact on the Palestinian economy of the administrative permit system (and related demolitions), should be understood and the administration by the Israeli army of the occupied territories challenged.
What can you do now? Avoid settlement products. And write to your political representatives. It is not inconceivable that the many Quakers who responded to QCEA’s and other action alerts and wrote to their MEPs, had a hand in swaying today’s vote and helped ensure this statement of the EU for peace. Thank you!