In his cv presented to the European Parliament, Josep Borrell mentioned that after completing his studies at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 1969 ‘’I worked on Kibbutz Gal On, to the south of Beersheba. I travelled all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, from the Golan Heights to Eilat. This was my first ever contact with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’’
A former President of the European Parliament and Foreign Minister in Spain, Borrell called for ”a strong European Union which must learn to speak with one voice” on the international stage and also develop a “military capacity to act” or slide into irrelevance, eclipsed by the U.S. and China.
BRUSSELS—EU foreign affairs chief nominee, Spanish Josep Borrell, reaffirmed the EU stance in favor of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ruled out the EU withdrawing from its trade agreements with Israel.
Borrell was responding questions from members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee during a confirmation hearing on Monday in Brussels.
Asked by Spanish extreme-left MEP Manuel Pineda (a member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group) if the EU would maintain its preferential treatment to Israel ‘’that isn’t respecting international law, treaties and agreements,’’ Borrell, whose nomination as top EU diplomat has been regarded with suspicion in Jerusalem because he was favorable to a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state and declared that ”you have to live with the fact that Iran wants to wipe out Israel,”, responded : ‘’ We are not going to break our trade agreement with Israel. We are not talking of withdrawing of the agreements with Israel. We need to come to a common position within the EU Council (of Foreign Ministers). There are opposing views. Some say there is a need for the (EU-Israel) Association Council to meet as soon as possible, others want us to break all trade ties. One the one hand we are speaking out against the rockets that are launched on Israelis and then we are accused of being pro-Israeli and vice-versa in the other direction. It’s hard to find solutions to meet both sides.’’
In his questions to Borrell, MEP Pineda, who in July hosted in the Euopean Parliament two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an EU-listed terrorist group, said Israel ‘’has turned the Gaza trip into the largest open air prison in the world’’ and that Jerusalem ‘’has become de facto the capital of the Zionist state.’’
In his answers, 72-year old Borrell, who is a former president of the European Parliament and was Foreign Minister in the Spanish government led by Socialist Pedro Sanchez, stressed the European position ‘’to defend the two-state solution, based on the creation of a Palestinian state that guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people and also guarantees the right to existence of the Israeli state.’’
He added : ‘’We want both at the same time.’’ He noted that the EU ‘’is doing a lot for the Palestinians’.’ ‘’Let me remind you that the EU is providing one million euros a day to help the Palestinian Authority. 300 million a year and that has been the case since the Oslo agreements. This is vital for the PA to continue existing and its vital and gives hope for the creation of a two-state solution.’’
‘’If anyone is providing assistance to the Palestinians it’s the Europeans, if anyone is keeping alive the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state that can coexist peacefully with an Israeli state and that guarantees also the right, the existence and security of Israel and respects the rights of the Palestinians, to their own state and political structures its the EU. We all need to be united. It’s not an anti-Israeli or antisemitic position. We just want to see a peaceful coexistence between these two peoples.’’
As Spanish Foreign Minister Borrell raised eyebrows in Israel when he said that the recognition of a Palestinian State was “on the table” of the Spanish government. For this, it was about to open an “intense process” of consultations with its European counterparts, setting a deadline for reaching a common position. If no consensus would be reached, Borrell warned that each Member State ‘’can act unilaterally.’’ Sweden took the step in 2014.
In his cv presented to the European Parliament, Borrell mentioned that after completing his studies at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 1969 ‘’I worked on Kibbutz Gal On, to the south of Beersheba. I travelled all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, from the Golan Heights to Eilat. This was my first ever contact with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’’
If confirmed by the EU parliament, Borrell will succeed in November Italian Federica Mogherini as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.
Mogherini has been also criticized in Israel for her perceived pro-Palestinian bias and her staunch support of the nuclear deal with Iran.