EU lawmakers slam Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, delivers his speech at the debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 2020. [EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER]

*Corrects the quote from MEP Tanja Fajon

A majority of EU lawmakers harshly criticised Donald Trump’s Middle East peace strategy during a plenary session on Tuesday (11 February), denouncing the plans for going against international law and being biased in favour of Israel.

“The proposal clearly challenges the internationally agreed parameters” of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said during the debate in Strasbourg.

Trump’s controversial Middle East peace plan (MEPP), staunchly backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would unilaterally annul previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue. It would give Israel a green light to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and entrench Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”

According to Borrell, Israel’s possible annexation of the Jordan Valley, as laid out in the plan, could potentially fuel Palestinian anger and protests.

“This may happen …and you can be sure it is not going to be peaceful,” the Spanish diplomat added.

“It is difficult to see how this initiative can bring both parties back to the table,” he said, adding later that most member states would not even consider the plan ‘a good starting point’.

The plan, released by the White House on 28 January, has been rejected by the Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israeli, which makes it unlikely they could join the negotiation table any time soon.

Borrell, however, said the plan could present a starting point for renewed peace negotiations, but clearly rejected the notion that it could lead to a long-term solution in the Middle East peace process.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the plan in Brussels next Monday (17 February), to which they have invited US State Secretary Mike Pompeo for an exchange of views.

In Strasbourg meanwhile, EU lawmakers across the political spectrum have rejected the content and direction of the proposal.

Dutch MEP Kati Piri (S&D) called Trump’s plan “one-sided, illegal and intentionally provocative,” which effectively aims at “legalizing settlement and annexation of the West Bank” and “risks bringing more suffering for the Palestinian people.”

Piri also called the proposal “a cynical plan of two far-right leaders seeking support ahead of elections,” referring to Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans (Renew) said the plan is a “one-state solution,” urging the EU to use its “credibility to intervene as an honest broker” and suggested Borrell initiate a peace conference.

Spanish far-left MEP Manu Pineda (GUE) called the “deal” the “fraud of the century.”

MEP Tanja Fajon (S&D) said the plan would solidify Israel’s apartheid in Palestine, and called it a  “slap in the face of international law and the peace process”.

Cautious Middle East policy

The EU rejected parts of Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East earlier in February, with EU foreign policy chief Borrell announcing in a statement Trump’s plan departs from “internationally agreed parameters”.

“To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” Borrell said, noting the issues of the borders of a Palestinian state and the final status of Jerusalem were among those still being disputed.

Steps by Israel to annex Palestinian territory, “if implemented, could not pass unchallenged,” Borrell said.

Borrell’s earlier comments had prompted an angry response from Israel, which has strongly backed the US proposal.

Some EU members have already recognised a Palestinian state, although the bloc as a whole says this is a matter is still to be resolved in peace talks.

In 2017, the EU had condemned Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying Washington had compromised its position as a mediator for peace.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday (11 February), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the UN Security Council to reject President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, saying it would splinter Palestinian lands and never bring lasting peace.

He said that the proposal would bring neither peace nor stability and would rather leave the Palestinians with a state resembling “Swiss cheese.”

Also on Tuesday, the four EU members of the Security Council — France, Germany, Belgium and Estonia — as well as Poland, which left the Council at the end of last year as a non-permanent member, jointly said that any Middle East solution needs to be based on pre-1967 borders, when Israel seized the West Bank in the Six-Day War.

The European Union earlier failed to issue a similar joint statement among all members due to resistance from a handful of countries including Hungary, led by right-wing populist Viktor Orbán.

Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Samuel Stolton

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