Israeli military occupation is not a bar to EU partnership


On 1 September 2008, the EU decided that meetings with Russia about a new partnership agreement would be postponed “until [Russian] troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August” [1], that is, until no Russian troops are present in Georgia outside South Ossetia. 


On 28 November 1995, the EU allowed Israel to become a partner, under Euro-Mediterranean Partnership arrangements with states bordering on the Mediterranean.  At the time, Israeli troops were occupying parts of Lebanon and Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) and had been for many years – Lebanon since 1978, the rest since 1967.


Had the conditions applied to Russia in September 2008 been applied to Israel in November 1995, the EU would have refused to enter into negotiation with Israel about becoming a partner until all Israeli troops had been withdrawn from Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


Clearly, the EU has applied very different standards in its relations with Israel and Russia. 


On the one hand, Israel was allowed to become an EU partner in 1995, even though large swathes of territory not its own had been under Israeli military occupation for many years, and is allowed to remain a partner even though most of this territory remains under Israeli military occupation today.  What is more, on 16 June 2008 the EU agreed to “upgrade” its relations with Israel, despite this ongoing military occupation of territory not its own.


By contrast, Russia is not allowed to enter into negotiation about a partnership with the EU without ending its month long occupation of parts of Georgia.


It would be interesting to hear the EU justify those extraordinary double standards.


Respecting territorial integrity

There is another extraordinary aspect to the EU’s relations with Israel – the EU has been happy to sign agreements with Israel even though, at the time of signing, Israel has been contravening obligations contained in the agreements themselves.


For example, the Barcelona Declaration, which established the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, obliges its signatories to “respect the territorial integrity and unity of each of the other partners” [2] and a series of other norms of international law.


Lebanon, Syria and Israel signed the Barcelona Declaration and became EU partners in November 1995.  At that time, parts of Lebanon and Syria were under Israeli military occupation and the Golan Heights had been annexed by Israel.  Clearly, Israel was failing to “respect the territorial integrity and unity” of its Lebanese and Syrian partners in 1995, when it signed the Barcelona Declaration containing this obligation.  But the EU turned a blind eye to Israel’s breach of the partnership agreement at the time it signed the partnership agreement – and allowed it to become an EU partner.


And the EU has continued to turn a blind eye ever since and allowed Israel to remain an EU partner, even though today Syrian and Lebanese territory remains under Israeli military occupation and Israeli military aircraft frequently invade Lebanese air space.


Carrying out Security Council resolutions

The Barcelona Declaration also obliges its signatories to “act in accordance with the United Nations Charter”, Article 25 of which obliges UN member states “to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council” [3].  In 1995, Israel was violating around 25 Security Council resolutions requiring action by it and it alone, including:-






In 1995, Israel was in contravention of these, and other, Security Council resolutions.  In 1995, the EU turned a blind eye to this breach of the UN Charter and of the Barcelona Declaration – and allowed it to sign the Barcelona Declaration and become an EU partner.  Israel is in contravention of these, and even more, Security Council resolutions today – and it is still an EU partner.


Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction

In the Barcelona Declaration, Israel also signed up to the following:


“The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.


“Furthermore the parties will consider practical steps to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as excessive accumulation of conventional arms.” [2]


Israel is the only state in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons (and probably the only one that possesses chemical and biological weapons).  So, its disarmament of these weapons is a necessary, and probably a sufficient, condition for bringing about a “Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction”, as required by the Barcelona Declaration.  However, progress in bringing this about has been noticeable by its absence since Israel signed up to “pursue” this objective in 1995.


There has been no progress either on the Security Council’s demand in resolution 487, passed on 19 June 1981, that “Israel urgently … place its nuclear facilities under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards” [4].  27 years later, Israel still hasn’t opened its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection, nor is there any noticeable pressure from the EU to make it do so, let alone disarm in order to produce a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which parties to the Barcelona Declaration are supposed to “pursue”.


By contrast, Iran’s nuclear facilities, including its uranium enrichment facilities, are open to IAEA inspection.  It is worth noting that, after extensive inspection in Iran, the IAEA has found no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme, or ever had one.  By contrast, Israel has possessed nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them for around 40 years.  It is estimated that today Israel has around 200 nuclear warheads and various delivery systems, including by submarine-launched missiles.  It is capable of wiping Iran, and every Arab state, off the map at the touch of a button.


Strange that the EU is actively pressuring Iran about its nuclear activities, but not Israel, despite the requirement in its partnership agreement with Israel to “pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction”.



David Morrison

6 September 2008