As Israel continues to find herself under unyielding existential siege by her immediate Arab neighbors and the ever present threat to annihilate the Jewish state by Iran gains traction with each passing day, it now appears that influential international organizations have escalated their concerted efforts to isolate Israel in the world community.
According to a recent report in the Guardian of London, a cadre of high profile former European political leaders and diplomats have issued demands that the European Union (EU) urgently reassess its policy on announcing its formal recognition of a Palestinian state and have insisted that Israel be held accountable for its “actions” in the so-called occupied territories.
In a strongly worded letter to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, the group of leaders also expressed their serious misgivings concerning the role that the US can play in leading substantive negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in terms of a two-state solution.
The Guardian reported that the signatories on the letter included Hubert Védrine and Roland Dumas, former foreign ministers of France, Andreas van Agt, former prime minister of the Netherlands, John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France, Javier Solana, former NATO secretary general and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK ambassador to the UN. The group is known as the European Eminent Persons Group.
The leaders charge that the financial and political aid that the EU has given to the troubled region has only exacerbated the “preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza”.
Reports indicate that the timing of the letter by the European leaders comes on the heels of the recent electoral victory of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his success in cobbling together a right-wing coalition.
These leaders and others in senior European political circles have often criticized Netanyahu for what they perceive as his efforts to intentionally place obstacles in the path of US initiated peace negotiations as well as stalling direct talks with the Palestinian Authority.
The letter clearly expresses increased frustration over the moribund peace process and continued illegal Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, according to the Guardian report.
In a scathing critique of EU policy, the letter says: “Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation. It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights.”
The issue of recognition of a Palestinian state is expected to be presented before the UN security council in the coming months, according to the Guradian report. It will likely be in the shape of a new draft resolution currently being examined by France. The leaders say::“If this means recognition of a Palestine government-in-waiting for the territories within the pre-1967 borders, or the setting of a deadline for the negotiation of a two-state solution, the EU should be united in support.”
Moreover, the leaders have asked the EU to make their relations with Palestinians and Israelis conditional on the “parties attitude to progress towards a two-state solution”.
In a recent interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, President Obama said that he had not given up hope for a two-state solution but tensions in the region and “serious questions about overall commitment” have made progress difficult, according to the Guardian report.
“It’s no secret that we now have a very difficult path forward,” Obama said in the interview. “We look to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians to demonstrate - through policies and actions - a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.”
The European leaders’ letter follows an April report sent to the EU foreign policy chief about a potential boycott of products manufactured in the disputed territories. The report called for the “correct labelling of settlement products.”
As such, the letter asked for “tougher measures to contain [Israeli] settlement expansion and steps to operationalize the EU’s policy of non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty beyond the 1967 borders across the full range of EU-Israeli relations”.
Condemning what they perceive as Netanyahu’s intransigence as it pertains to implementing practical steps to furthering the peace process, the letter stated their belief that the Israeli Prime Minister has “little intention of negotiating seriously for a two-state solution within the term of this incoming Israeli government.” They also came down hard on the role of the Obama administration by writing: “We also have low confidence that the US government will be in a position to take a lead on fresh negotiations with the vigor and the impartiality that a two-state outcome demands.”
On the flip side of this ongoing debacle, while the EU has played a significant role in pressuring successive Israeli governments regarding peace negotiations with the Palestinians, they have consistently funded NGOs that work to delegitimize Israel through campaigns of Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS).
According to acclaimed author Joseph Puder, in an article appearing on the Front Page Mag web site, he writes: An “industry of lies” manufactured by the Palestinians have been accepted by the EU’s media and academia, who have turned them into accepted “truths” and disseminated them widely among those in the European “street.” BDS is quite simply a form of political warfare that exploits the language of human rights and international law to promote the destruction of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
He adds that, “The EU’s unquestionable support of radical Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and of the Palestinian Authority (PA) encourages Palestinian refusal to arrive at a reasonable and peaceful settlement with Israel. “
FIFA and the Proposed Suspension of Israel
In other related matters, efforts are underway in the realm of professional sports to undercut Israeli influence in the lucrative world of international football or soccer. Recently, the Palestinian Football Association had called for Israel’s suspension from FIFA, (Federation Internationale de Football Association) which is world soccer’s governing body.
On Tuesday, May 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet FIFA President Sepp Blatter in Jerusalem to see if measures can be taken to convince the Palestinians to withdraw their proposal for the suspension of Israel, which is on the agenda in FIFA's annual Congress in Zurich on May 29.
According to a Jerusalem Post report, Blatter is traveling to the region in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution to the campaign to isolate Israel.
The report indicated that the chances of a scenario unfolding in which Israel would be jettisoned from participation in FIFA are slim to none; nonetheless, Israel is taking the Palestinian bid quite seriously.
In the last few weeks Israel has lobbied many of the 209 countries of FIFA against the proposal. It takes a 75 percent majority – or 157 countries that would have to vote to support the move.
Israel argues that the proposal would adversely politicize the sport, and assert that the Palestinians.are only using this international platform to further their political agenda of internationally ostracizing Israel.
Reports have noted that restrictions have been placed on some Palestinian football players because of their involvement in terrorist organizations.
The JPost reported that Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini and CEO Rotem Kemer will participate in Netanyahu's meeting with Blatter. They went to Zurich last week to discuss the matter with FIFA chiefs at the organization's headquarters.
Is Abbas an “Angel of Peace?”
During a meeting on Saturday, May 16, at the Vatican, widespread reports emanating from the AFP and AP news services indicated that Pope Francis I called Palestininan Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas an “Angel of Peace.”
INN reported that the purported comments were received as something of a coup by PA officials and their supporters - but it appears they were the result of a mistranslation.
Francis's original remarks appeared in the Italian-language newspaper La Stampa, which the English-language outlets in question translated as the pontiff calling Abbas outright an "angel of peace."
But doubts were first cast on the accuracy of the translation by the Israellycool blog, which pointed out that the Italian was written in the exhortative (using the word "sia").
Several Italian-language experts have confirmed that to Arutz Sheva, saying that Francis actually told Abbas that he "may" or "could" be an "angel of peace," in an attempt to persuade him to return to peace talks with Israel.
As leader of the Catholic world, the Pope's stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict is closely scrutinized, leading to several high-profile controversies.
Just last week Pope Francis declared he would recognize "Palestine," sparking an uproar - just days after he declared that the Vatican would canonize "Palestinian saints."
In May 2014, while on an official visit to Israel, the Pope called the Palestinian Authority (PA) the "state of Palestine," and made an unexpected stop at the security barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Judea to pray at a section with "Pope we need to see someone to speak about justice. Bethlehem look (sic) like Warsaw ghetto. Free Palestine" spray-painted on it.
Abbas was in Rome at the invitation of the Pope for the canonization Sunday of two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity.
Joining Abbas were over 2000 Palestinians who waved flags in Vatican square during the ceremony.
Church officials have said that the canonization of the new saints is a sign of hope and encouragement for Christians in the Middle East at a time when violent persecution from Islamic extremists has driven many Christians from the region of Christ's birth, according to published reports.
In a statement Saturday, Abbas praised the two new saints as inspirational models for today's Palestinians and urged Christians like them to remain in the region.
"We call on Palestinian Christians to stay with us and enjoy the rights of full and equal citizenship, and bear with us the difficulties of life until we achieve liberty, sovereignty and human dignity," he said.
Giulio Meotti, a Vatican scholar and expert on the history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church, recently offered quite a different analysis of the Church’s position on Israel. He called the Pope’s recognition of a Palestinian state. The Pope’s decision he said is “nothing new.” He added that, “Despite the fact that there are many Catholics around the world who share a pro-Israel attitude, the Catholic Church has always been at war with the Jewish State and did everything in its power to prevent its establishment and then to derail it.”