Europe's fruitless search for peace

BEIRUT - Poor Robin Cook. Abused as an anti-Semite by a Jewish demonstrator at the illegal Jewish settlement at Har Homa - in Arabic, Jebel abu Ghoneim - he claimed that the slur hurt. Apparently unaware that anyone who questions Israel's policies towards the Arabs will be slandered as a racist, he took it personally. At least President Chirac understood its real meaning when he endured a similar barrage during a visit to Israel in 1996. Any European leader who contradicts the Israeli government should expect the same treatment.

Europe's policy towards the Middle East is both eminently reasonable and invariably rejected. Long before the Americans accepted Yasser Arafat's transformation from "super-terrorist" to super-statesman, the Europeans were talking to the PLO. It is said Britain's ambassador to Tunis was helping Arafat to draft his speeches between 1988 and 1992. After all, it was the Venice declaration of 1980 which stated that the PLO should be "associated" with peace negotiations.

Four years later, European foreign ministers supported "the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, with all that this implies." In 1987 EC declarations deplored Israel's "repressive measures ... which are in violation of international law and human rights." Long before the Oslo agreement Europe had been seeking a just peace in the Middle East. But once Oslo had been signed - worthless signatures, it now appears - Europe's impotence was made apparent.

The EU could finance the new Middle East peace, the US said, but could have no voice in it. They could pay - but would not be allowed to talk. And so, lulled by the self-indulgence of the Norwegians who brokered a treaty without international guarantees, we went along with this arrangement. And whenever a European minister suggested mildly that America was no longer an unbiased peace broker, that Washington was refusing to force the Israelis to comply with the peace, he or she was told to shut up.

For the problem is that Europe does not have the courage to formulate a common foreign policy - and thus has no common policy on the Middle East. In frustration, the Arabs now call on the Europeans to save them; and they forget that it was European powers who betrayed their demand for independence after the 1914-18 war. In their anger, the Israelis ask the Europeans what right they have to intervene; and they remember that the slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust was a uniquely European crime.

So what role can Europe have? Little at present, it seems. Ex-foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, presumably forgetting his own lamentable Middle East performance, has criticised Mr Cook for shaking hands with a Palestinian at Har Homa. For daring to shake hands with an occupant of the occupied lands Mr Cook has been turned down as a dinner guest in London by at least one Jewish group. Similar remarks were made by French Jews when France allowed Mr Arafat to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg a decade ago. The French government responded that their citizens must be mature if they wished to act on the world stage and host the EU parliament.

But maturity is not the hallmark of EU member-states. Their attempt to bring peace to Algeria has been pathetic. Their ability to calm tempers between Greece and Muslim Turkey has been equally abject. True, they see the explosion coming in the Middle East, and have good reason to be fearful. The Muslim and Jewish worlds will for ever be our territorial neighbours and they will never be neighbours of the US, however much power the latter has in the Middle East.

Maybe the EU should make its financial generosity contingent on political involvement in the region's future. But this would be a tough policy for a continent so weak it needs Washington to help sort out its squabbles in Ireland and Bosnia. So when it comes to Europe 50 years after Israel's creation, don't hold your breath.

Sport
footballLIVE: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
newsNew images splice vintage WWII photos with modern-day setting
Arts and Entertainment
The star dances on a balcony in the video
music
News
Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen learns that Peeta is still alive in Mockingjay Part 1
peopleListen to the actress sing in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
music
News
Evidence collected by academics suggests that people find the right work-life balance at 58-years-old, towards the end of their working lives
news
News
i100
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines