“The EU has to restructure its failed strategy [in Gaza] and seek to bring the new US administration to a similar re-appraisal and policy change,” argue Michael Emerson and Richard Youngs, associate senior research fellows at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), and Natalie Tocci, senior research fellow at the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome, in a January CEPS report.
“Hamas must be engaged” in any attempt to resolve the crisis, the authors argue. “If [the EU] does not engage [with Hamas], it cannot hope to positively influence the well-known divisions within the Hamas leadership that have been on display over the last year,” they state.
In addition, the EU has channelled its aid to Palestinian territories by specifically “avoiding the democratically-elected Hamas administration, whilst bolstering the unelected Fatah administration in the West Bank,” the CEPS paper asserts.
As an alternative, the authors argue that the EU’s aid delivery should “involve respect for Palestinian democracy” and “not give overt preference to those deemed ‘helpful moderates'”.
Next, the paper asserts that the EU needs to address “difficult issues” such as “Palestinian trade with the EU” and the need to “foster transport, trade and infrastructure links” between Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Union.
The bloc must also “seriously reassess its bilateral relations with Israel,” the CEPS paper states. The authors lament that the EU has “never sanctioned Israel for its illegal actions in the Occupied Territories, nor has it attempted to employ positive conditionality to induce Israel to modify its actions in the territories”.
Instead, bilateral relations between the Union and Israel “should cease to recognise, aid or assist internationally illegal acts” and they “should have inbuilt safeguard measures to ensure the EU respects its duty of non-recognition of internationally unlawful acts,” the researchers argue.
Furthermore, the paper claims the bloc should “make it clear to Israel that its failure to offer the carrot of substantive peace proposals as well as the stick of military reprisals carries its cost in Israel’s international relations”.
The incoming Obama administration in the US should “strongly reinforce this recalibration of Western policies” and “add its voice to the essential pressure upon Israel to show real movement on final settlement issues,” the authors add.
Unless the EU changes its current policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will “further deteriorate the international political reputation of Europe and the West” and “its capacity to influence the world,” the CEPS paper concludes.