Two years ago, a Christian peace group I was traveling with had breakfast in Tel Aviv with Akiva Eldar, prominent Israeli author and columnist. About peace prospects, Eldar was pessimistic, as were most Israelis who favored a two-state solution. But toward the end of his presentation, he suggested what sounded like a innovative way for Europe to nudge Israel towards a compromise peace. What if, he wondered, European airport customs officers asked Israeli visitors (who comprise a huge portion of Israel’s affluent middle class) to state on a form whether they had ever served in the occupied territories? Since this is what Israel’s army essentially does, occupy the occupied territories, the percentage of “Yes” would be pretty high. And then what if entry visas were then denied to travelers who had served in the occupation forces. Pretty quickly the Tel Aviv liberals, who generally give pro-forma disapproval to the occupation and West Bank settlements but can’t be bothered to do much about it, would squawk, and loudly. Just maybe, there might arise an Israeli interest in a genuine two state solution that rivaled that of the Palestinian Authority, which has stated again and again readiness to make peace with Israel with a state on 22 percent of the land of the Palestine Mandate.
Europe hasn’t done that. . . yet. But in a critical bureaucratic statement, the European Union announced that they will not sign contracts or fund grants, scholarships, or prizes with any entities associated with Israel’s illegal settlements. The Washington Post notes
The new measures also require that all future financial agreements between the E.U. and Israel include a clause stipulating that the settlements are not a part of the state of Israel and, therefore, not party to any contracts.
The devil of course is in the details. Any bureaucratic regulation, even one emerging—as this one seems to have—from critical and high level political considerations, can be delayed or amended into meaninglessness. But some have speculated that the Euro measures are being deployed in coordination with Kerry’s peace intitiative. Kerry will come to Israel promising billions and all kinds of support to a serious peace process, while Europe reminds Israelis of the negative consequences if negotiations don’t lead to a genuine Palestinian state on the West Bank. If so, it means the Kerry initiative is not dead yet and indeed worth watching. Every American president save Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush has concluded the only way to deal with Israel is to give it everything it wants—and the hope that Israel will then “feel” secure enough to negotiate reasonably with the Palestinians. The results of that are pretty evident, half a million Israelis settled in the occupied territories, and a seemingly impregnable political majority in Israel in favor of eternal domination of the West Bank. America under this regime has become the illegal occupation’s chief bankroller and international protector.
I have been pessimistic that this could ever change. But if Kerry and Obama really are letting Europe play “bad cop”—the seemingly impregnable “no need to make peace with the Palestinians” majority in Israel could erode pretty quickly.