The name of the diplomatic game over the past few weeks seems to have been “Bear Down on Israel.” The pressure has come in many forms:
● The European Union’s one-sided decision against all trade with any company connected with Judea and Samaria (Yesha).
● U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ongoing diplomatic shuttle in which he has apparently pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept all of the PA’s preconditions for resuming negotiations, including the release of dozens of Palestinian terrorists.
● American coercion on Israel to refrain from building homes for many of its citizens – specifically, those living in the areas where most of biblical Jewish history took place; and more.
Bottom line: Kerry’s announcement that top Israeli and PA officials would be arriving in Washington in the coming days to begin yet another round of talks.
Where does all this leave Israel?
First and foremost, we simply cannot ignore the most blatantly immoral aspect of the American position: The Obama administration is twisting Israel’s arm to force it to free Palestinian terrorist murderers – while at the same time the U.S. refuses to make the simple humanitarian gesture of freeing long-imprisoned Jonathan Pollard.
Nearly as immoral is the European Union’s stance. As Alan Baker, director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israel ambassador to Canada, wrote this week, “the EU has many free trade agreements and understandings with countries whose territorial boundaries are in dispute,” yet it has chosen to punish only Israel for its neighbors’ hostility.
Specifically, the EU has now issued guidelines, albeit non-binding, advising its member states not to provide “funding, cooperation, scholarships, research funds, or prizes” to anyone residing in the Jewish towns in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
“This unprecedented and hostile EU fixation with Israel and its settlements,” Baker writes, “is based on a series of long-standing and deliberately misleading and flawed legal and political assumptions regarding the illegality of Israel’s settlements and the status of the pre-1967 armistice lines as Israel’s border.”
Baker concludes: “The EU has taken sides, and [is thus] undermining the negotiating process…. [The EU’s] position and actions against Israel are all the more unfortunate and regrettable in light of the tragic Jewish history in Europe, which cannot be ignored or forgotten.”
Practically speaking, as of Jan. 1, 2014, businesses and stores in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Yerushalayim, for instance, will no longer be freely able to do business with European customers. (Ironically, Jews living in the former Jewish Quarter, known today as the Muslim Quarter, are ostensibly not included in this ban, as they do not live in “Jewish settlements.”)
It is not yet exactly clear how the Jewish businesses in Yesha will deal with this serious threat. As of now, reactions from Yesha have been only on the verbal front. “It looks like history is not studied in Europe,” said a Yesha Council statement, “and Europe is once again implementing a policy of discrimination and boycotting against [Jews]. The government of Israel must order an immediate halt to all European-funded projects [for Arabs] in Judea and Samaria until this latest unilateral decision is rescinded.”
For the record, the driving force behind this blatantly anti-Israel policy, applicable to nearly the entire European continent, is Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs executive.
How should Israel react to this pressure from the United States and Europe?
Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli liaison to Congress and an expert on Israel-U.S. relations, has a simple answer: “There are no free lunches in personal and national struggles, especially when it comes to the Jewish people. Successful struggles require defiance of pressure – [and it is this that] has ensured the survival of Judaism and the Jewish people.”
Ettinger notes that since Israel’s establishment in 1948, it has successfully and beneficially resisted strong international pressures in the following cases: The U.S. military embargo and threat of economic embargo in 1948; the annexation of western Jerusalem and parts of Tel Aviv, the Galilee and the Negev in 1949; the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967; the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981; the application of Israeli law in the Golan in 1981; the settlement of 375,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria and 250,000 Jews in eastern Jerusalem since 1967; etc.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.
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