If unilateral annexation goes ahead, it will undermine Israel-EU ties, warned EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in an opinion article published in The Jerusalem Post.
‘’Europe and Israel are very close not only geographically, but also culturally and economically. There is a strong bond between Israel and Europe, and we want to strengthen this bond and further deepen our relations, not see them retract. However, this is what will inevitably happen if unilateral annexation goes ahead,’’ he wrote.
The government coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White signed last April allows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring sovereignty moves to a vote on Wednesday, July 1, at the earliest, in accordance with the Trump plan for the Middle East. Will this annexation take place? Will it be maximum or minimum? The issue divides the Israeli society. But Europe is also divided on how to react.
Does Israel care about the EU’s position on the issue ? Eran Lerman, Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) says he is much more concerned about the transatlantic partnership ‘’because Europe has not been the provider of our capacity to survive in a rough neighborhood.’’
Addressing a zoom briefing for journalists organised by the Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA), he said: ‘’Sorry to go back to the situation twenty years ago when an Italian politician told us: you should rely on us for your security. This was while Bosnia was going to bits. And I said to myself: If this is how you manage to take care of your backyard, leave us to our own devices.’’
‘’Frankly, I think that for Europe today to give up on opportunities to cooperate with Israel science in the context of Horizon 2020-2027 would harm first and foremost European interests,’’ Lerman said, in a reference to eventual EU sanctions against Israel if annexation goes ahead .
He added: ‘’Israel is a powerhouse. If you take out Israeli chips out of your computer, you won’t be able to do zoom conferences. Moreover, by taking a pro-Palestinian position that actually doesn’t serve the Palestinians to me defies logic. Do bear in mind that in the Easter Mediterranean Israel today is strategically allied with Greec, Cyprus, France, Egypte, the UAE and paradoxically Russia facing the ambitions of Erdogan in Ankara. So there are strategic commonalities with much of Europe today that I think will mitigate the urge to punish Israel if it takes action to apply its law to parts of the West Bank.’’
“Our presence in the Jordan Valley is vital for Israel, but also for the Palestinians because it is protection against Iran and the jihadists,” Lerman stressed.
The term “annexation” is debated, at least in Israel. “Annexation is not the right term, it is not a military action, it is part of the Trump plan”, added Lerman. ‘’The risks of this decision are high, yes, and faced with Covid-19, this is not a priority. But it is an opportunity. Risk can be managed intelligently if we take measures to limit ourselves to measures that we consider to meet a security need.’’
For Micah Goodman, an Israeli-American philosopher and senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Israelis are divided. The coronavirus crisis seems to have taken over. “The Israelis are 70% fans of the Trump plan,” he said. “But when asked if they support annexation, the majority are against it. Barely 4% of them think this is a priority issue,’’ he added.
For the philosopher, “the Trump plan is a success for Netanyahu, but the annexation risks putting this success in danger”. His proposal? ‘’Privilege the parts of the plan promoting Palestinian autonomy, such as the construction of corridors between the Palestinian territories. “If you want to implement the plan unilaterally, do so by increasing the independence of the Palestinians,” he said.
Goodman is not sure that the Israeli Prime Minister will choose the maximum option. “Bibi is a more cautious leader than Donald Trump, they do not have the same character, as we saw during the management of the pandemic.’’