The EU and the Israel\Palestine Conflict:

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Working Papers Series in EU Border Conflicts Studies The EU and the Israel\Palestine Conflict: An Ambivalent Relationship David Newman and Haim Yacobi Department of Politics and Government Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel
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No. 4 January2004
A. Introduction In the summer of 2002, following renewed and continuing violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli government began the construction of a security barrier separating Israel from large sections of the West Bank. This barrier, composed in part of a concrete wall and in other areas of parallel rows of barbed wire has recently been relabeled the terror prevention fence. The 'fence', or as also named "the wall" produced an intensive debate concerning the route of the wall which annexes 2,800 acres of Palestinian land (Gush Shalom brochure, 2003), the abuse of human rights (B'tselem, 2003; World Bank Report, 2003), the ecological damage (PENGON Report, 2003) and the (in)ability and limitations of the wall in protecting Israeli citizens (Sagie and Sher, 2003). However, one of the significant results of the construction of the wall is the tangible demarcation of the Israeli territory - the unilateral production of a clear borderline - between Israel and the Palestinian authority, deviating from the Green Line, the boundary which was created in 1948-49 and which marks the territorial extent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, those areas which were conquered by Israel from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 war.  This act of bordering, we propose, cannot be seen as an autonomous reaction rooted solely in the securitization discourse. Rather, it is also a result of the long history of discussions concerning the territorial nature of Israel and its spatio-political relations with the Arab world. This paper explores the historical background that shaped the border conflicts between Israel and its Arab states neighbours during the past century. This historical description allows us to explore the main themes that have shaped Israel border discourse over time. This discourse does not only relate to the issue of demarcation and territorial configurations of political entities, but also relates to the significance of borders for the nature of the relations between Israel and her neighbours in general, and more specifically between Israel and the Palestinians. We will argue that the dispute over land and borders lies at the heart of
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the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As in other cases of nation building this embodies political and social aspects as well as questions concerning identity, class formation and the symbolic production of space (see: Passi, 1999; Agnew and Corbridge, 1995; Smith, 1985; Anderson, 1983). Notions of political homeland, the symbolic and mythical territory which constitute a central part of national identity and attachment, are central to our understanding of the way in which Israelis and Palestinians formulate their respective border and territorial discourses. Nonetheless, in this paper we aim to limit the discussion to the way in which the borders and territorial dispute has been shaped, transformed and reproduced at specific political junctions. We do not aim to present here a comprehensive and detailed historical analysis here. Rather, we focus on those events which have shaped the main contours and transformations of the conflict through the different phases which have been identified in the theoretical framework of this project, namely: conflict episode, issue conflict, identity conflict and power conflict.  Beyond the description of the major shaping events of the conflict, the paper will also discuss and critically analyse the involvement of the EU in the Israel\Palestine conflict. We will present the development of EU role and patterns of intervention, as well as the merits and disadvantages of the EU constituting an honest broker with a significant third party role in the process of conflict resolution. In this context we argue that Europes role in general, and that of the EU in particular, is of major significance, both because of the historic role of European countries in the region - especially the respective British and French mandates awarded by the League of Nations following the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the post World War I control of the region  as well as the geographic proximity and cultural influence of Europe within -the wider Levant region.  At the same time, we will demonstrate that, despite the long historical relationship between Europe and Israel/Palestine, and despite the substantial economic involvement in both Israel (in terms of trade and cultural relations) and the Palestinian Authority (in terms of major financial assistance and aid packages) neither of the actors perceive the EU as playing a significant role in
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the process of conflict resolution. This is particularly the case with respect to Israel, where there is a deep-rooted and, in recent years, growing mistrust of European intentions towards the region. Israeli attitudes towards Europe have always been harsher and more critical than attitudes towards the USA, even when the respective USA and EU leaders make similar statements about the need to establish a Palestinian State, end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and bring an end to settlement activity.  Responding to statements of this nature emanating from the White House, Israeli leaders make conciliatory noises about this being no more than a dispute amongst close friends which can be sorted out in the next visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to the Oval Office. A similar statement emanating from London, Berlin or Paris is often greeted with a howl of rage and a statement to the effect that this is just another example of European pro-Palestinian bias and, in some cases, reflects latent European anti-Semitism. The fact that anti-Semitic activity has been on the increase in some European countries during the past decade, has only served to strengthen the socially constructed feeling amongst a growing number of Israelis that Europe is not to be trusted and that it does not have Israeli interests at heart in its own foreign policy making.  Israeli ambivalence towards Europe in general has been a common theme in foreign policy making ever since the establishment of the State in 1948. On the one hand, Europe was the place in which the holocaust took place, on the other hand, nearly all of the State founder generation were European, saw European culture and traditions as being the cornerstones on which a modern State of Israel should be founded, and given the proximity in geographical location, saw in Europe an ally against a hostile Islamic Middle East. Nearly half of Israels Jewish population derives its direct ancestry from Europe within the past 2-3 generations. Moreover, an increasing number of Israelis now lay claim to EU citizenship and passports. With the enlargement of the EU in 2004, and in particular the addition of Poland and Hungary (two countries with particularly large Jewish populations prior to World War II) to the member states, it is estimated that nearly one third of the countrys population will be entitled to EU passports, through their parents or
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