EU is pouring oil on Palestinian flames

Friday 05/06/2015

Beirut - There is a rather cruel ru­mour in the soulless cor­ridors of power in the European Commission in Brussels that when Cath­erine Ashton took the job as EU for­eign policy chief in 2010, she called the Americans handling the Haiti earthquake crisis to see if she could jet in, for a “manufacturing con­sent” media stunt.

But a US general told her “to be honest dear, you’d better not come. No one knows who you are and you’ll probably just get in the way”.

Ashton was seriously challenged when it came to being a super dip­lomat. Bereft of apparent personal­ity and unable to speak foreign lan­guages, she bumbled through four years of trying to intervene on the world’s superpower problems but always came across as a provincial schoolteacher lost on a day trip to London.

But her appointment was a cun­ning one by London. The EU think­ing at the time in Brussels was “keep the Brits on board by giving them the heavyweight diplo post” while London was happy that there was never a danger of the European Union developing a foreign policy when the job was given to someone who was as about as charismatic as a pile of damp laundry.

Ashton was never meant to be part of any “solution” in the Middle East. And she knew it but has that idea changed with the appointment of Federica Mogherini?

Already she is leaving many won­dering whether the European Un­ion’s foreign policy show for the world’s media is destroying any lin­gering hopes for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

An Arabist at heart, who is also sympathetic towards Russia and Iran, Mogherini got off to a disas­trous start as she campaigned to raise the European Union’s profile by globally placing herself at the heart of Israel’s so-called two-state solution.

The farce of the European Union having any tangible, working for­eign policy is dwarfed by the Israe­lis, though fooling the world they want it, as they humoured Mogher­ini recently during her visit.

Yet, few realise that the European Union is nowhere near part of the solution but very much part of the problem as its dithering and loosely veiled disdain for the Palestinians delivered Israeli Prime Minister Bin­yamin Netanyahu a gift horse.

A little-known fact is that, before Mogherini’s appointment, the Euro­pean Parliament was working hard on pushing the European Union to either outright ban Israeli goods in EU supermarkets or at least label Israeli products made in occupied Palestinian land.

Mogherini scrapped the plan al­most as soon as she took office and flew to Israel with a bold new blue­print of “diplomacy”. The move left many wondering if the plan was an egocentric stab at making herself centre stage. But with one stroke of the pen, Netanyahu won a monu­mental victory. In the same week, he announced more illegal land grabs while Mogherini’s office couldn’t even fire out a news release con­demning his action.

The European Union had a chance to leverage Israel on the land grabs and get them to stop — seen as es­sential to the two-state solution moving forward.

But Mogherini foundered and May 20th her meeting with Netan­yahu seemed contrite if not out­right disingenuous. The European Union’s pitiful ambitions to glorify itself through geopolitical diploma­cy and playing for the media have banged the last nail in the coffin of any peace process. Mogherini has actually tipped her hat to Netan­yahu, giving him the OK to go ahead with whatever land theft he wishes or for a renewed act of mindless kill­ing in Gaza.

As just as the European Union’s hi­larious attempts to create a number of regional policy initiatives have fallen flat on their faces in the last 20 years, the two-state solution plan of the European Union’s foreign policy firefly will soon burn out leaving the Palestinians once more in the dark as newly supplied US helicopters hover above their crumbled hovels.