1) What is the EU-Israel Association Agreement?
The EU-Israel Association Agreement came into force on 1 June 2000. The agreement has provided the Parties with mutual preferential treatment and customs duties exemption, both Israel and the EU have considerably intensified their relations in all fields.
The European Community has set up an intense network of trade, cooperation and development agreements throughout the years with third countries all over the world. Association Agreements are a particular kind of EU’s bilateral conventions.
2) Why should the EU-Israel Association Agreement be suspended?
Article 2 of the Agreement states that
• “Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”.
Israel carries out systematic violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
- imposes collective punishments on Palestinian civilians;
- shells residential areas;
- destroys and confiscates Palestinian property;
- prevents freedom of movement to people and goods through internal and external closures;
- prevents the movement of food and medical supplies;
- undermines public health;
- attacks medical and hospital establishments and services, schools, mosques and churches;
- undermines the right to education and freedom of religion;
- illegally detains and tortures Palestinian citizens, including children;
- systematically practices extra-judicial killing targeting Palestinian civilians, including high representatives of the National Palestinian Authority;
- transfers its population to the occupied Palestinian Territories.
According to Art. 83 and Protocol 4 of the Agreement the Agreement applies only to the territory of the State of Israel and preferential treatment is granted only to products produced within this territory. Not to products produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Since the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip Israeli customs services have systematically certified products produced in the Occupied Territories including Israeli settlements as originating in the State of Israel.
3) Isn’t Israel the only democracy of the Middle East?
Formally, Israel is a democratic State. But Israel violates human rights and democratic principles in relation to the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (20 % of the population) and live within the territory of the State of Israel.
In the Jewish State of Israel only Jews fully benefit from political and social rights, while the Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against both through written laws (according to a UN report in 1998 there were 17 laws involving discrimination against Arab citizens) and customary practice.
4) Would the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement be a sanction?
As Israel commits material breaches of the Agreement as outlined above, the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement by the EU would not be a sanction but the implementation of the customary norm of general international law “inadimplenti non est adimplendum”, codified by the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
A precedent of EU sanction on a third country occurred on 18 February 2002, when the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, arguing that this country fails to respect democratic principles.
5) Who decides to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement?
The Council of the European Union has the power to decide the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. It acts on a proposal of the European Commission, after the assent of the European Parliament has been obtained. The Council itself can request the Commission to submit an appropriate proposal.
Before suspending the Agreement the Council might invite the government of Israel to enter into consultations. If the Israeli government fails to take into account the concerns expressed by the EU the Council can decide the suspension of the Association Agreement.
6) Why should a development agency call for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement?
Development is a much wider issue than growth of GNP. It is a social process, comprising economic, social, political and cultural dimensions.
The spirit of the European trade agreements between the EU and its Mediterranean partners is to support economic and social development, stability and peace in the whole area.
The Israeli violations of the EU-Israel Association Agreement (as described in paragraph 2) are also violations of general international law and humanitarian law. These violations undermine development in the widest sense in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
7) Would the suspension alleviate poverty in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
Since the beginning of the current intifada the Palestinian economy has suffered enormous losses. Only pressure applied to Israel, such as through the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, would encourage the Israeli authorities to refrain from their aggressive and destructive policies against the Palestinians and comply with their legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Charter of the United Nations.
8) What is the relation between the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza?
Although occupation is illegal under international law, the international community has established rules in order to “humanize” war and military occupation. The most important of these is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention related to the protection of civilians in time of war.
The suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement would be both the implementation of the customary norm of general international law and of the EU Member States’ obligation to ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention in all circumstances.
9) Shouldn’t the violence stop first?
Both sides are suffering from violence, Palestinian as well as Israeli civilians. But how realistic is it to demand a complete cease of violence as this violence is executed by various bodies who do understand this as part of the national struggle for the end of the occupation? Can this be fully controlled by an already weak Palestinian Authority?
The Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories involves daily violence, in all its forms, against all Palestinian citizens.
10) What would be the economic consequences of the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the Israeli economy?
Israel exports 27 % of it’s goods to the EU (38 % to the USA, 19 % to Asia).
Israel imports 43 % from the EU (20 % from the USA, 15 % from Asia)
Another aspect of Israeli economy is considerable American aid (2 billion USD military aid, 760 million USD civil aid in 2002).
Therefore suspension of the EU-Israel Agreement would have an impact on the Israeli economy - but much more it would be a political sign than a real economic measure. This will show that the EU will not allow Israel to act outside the law just because of its privileged relations with the USA.
12) What would be the economic consequences of the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the Palestinian economy?
The continuing occupation and military siege have the worst impact on the Palestinian economy.
Since the outbreak of the Intifada unemployment has reached 48 % in Gaza and 32 % at the West Bank. 46 % of the Palestinian population live in poverty (less than 2 USD a day).
The suspension of the Association Agreement would be a peaceful means of pressure to make Israel respect the right of the Palestinians to development and independence. Moreover, it would provide the basis for the implementation of the EU-Palestinian Liberation Organization Association Agreement, which has never been implemented as Israel has officially opposed and in practice obstructed its execution.
14) When should the EU lift the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement?
As soon as Israel complies with its legal obligations under the Agreement itself.
15) As Europeans, why should we care about the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement? Why should we care about what happens in the Middle East?
As Europeans we carry a responsibility for the behavior of European governments and institutions within the EU and for their foreign policy. Internal and foreign policy are deeply related. Therefore, if we do not want to be accomplices to Israel’s violations, we should require that our countries do not provide Israel with the legal, political, economic and social basis for its daily violations of international law.
The success of the project of the European Union itself, based on values of democracy, human rights, legality, development, citizenship and peaceful relations with our Mediterranean neighbors on a just and egalitarian basis also depends on the EU’s attitude towards Israel’s breaches of international law and human rights.
Defending the implementation of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law in the Middle East means defending human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law also within the European Union.
The Charter of the United Nations,
In Belgium: Giovanna Lelli
Aprodev Coordinator for Palestinian & Israeli Issues
Rue Joseph II, 174
Bruxelles 1000 BELGIUM
mobile 0477-51 50 35
fax 0032-2-231 14 13In Denmark: DanChurchAid
In France: CIMADE
In Germany: Church Development Service , Bred for the World
In the Netherlands: ICCO
In the UK: Christian Aid
In Norway: Norwegian Church Aid
In Sweden: Church of Sweden Aid